CruelSummerLord writes "Luna felt sick at what the companions would
have to do, but she knew that the consequences of not doing it would be far, far
Fog Of War
As the companions walked down a
long and straight corridor, they heard a horrible bellowing sound approaching
them. The bellowing was reminiscent of what an angry bull might make, and the
companions immediately realized that they were about to face a gang of
minotaurs. Most beings, even gnomes or dwarves, would have had a hard time
tracking the companions through the mazelike cave passages leading to Kalrek’s
lair. The group of orcs, men and shadow mastiffs the companions had previously
fought needed luck to find them. Minotaurs were another story, gifted at
finding their way almost flawlessly through labyrinths to track their prey.
Nine minotaurs came into view
ahead of the companions. They were hideous creatures that resembled crosses
between bulls and men, powerfully muscled and wielding large axes and flails.
They snorted in delight as they saw their prey and charged eagerly, determined
to tear the companions apart.
Seline began chanting a spell as
her friends cried out in alarm and fell back, distracting the minotaurs from
what she was doing.
Weimar raised his bow and shot a
flurry of arrows, stinging the minotaurs and even felling one. He couldn’t stop
the minotaur’s vicious charge, though, as Seline’s friends continued to move
back and stepped behind her.
Soon, all of the companions
stood behind Seline, and there was nothing between her and the charging
Seline finished casting her
spell, raising one finger and pointing it at the minotaurs. A streak of
blue-white lightning blasted from her finger, tearing through the minotaurs and
causing the entire passage to glow brightly. The minotaurs bellowed in pain,
and six of them fell dead, smoke rising from the burn marks on their bodies.
The last two minotaurs continued their charge, determined to tear Seline apart.
She quickly stepped back as Ma’non’go and Airk came up to confront the
Airk swung his morning star at
one minotaur before it could bring its axe to bear. He hit the monster right
between its horns, crushing its skull and causing it to fall dead on the spot.
The other minotaur swung its
massive flail at Ma’non’go, but the tall Olman caught the flail’s chain in the
tines of his trident. Ma’non’go pulled his trident forward, pulling the
minotaur off balance. As the minotaur sought to free its weapon, Ma’nongo’
swung his trident back over his shoulder, causing the minotaur’s flail to fall to
the ground behind him. The minotaur snorted in anger and lowered its head
before it charged at Ma’non’go, trying to gore him. Ma’non’go was faster than
the creature expected, as he quickly brought his trident back down in front of
him. The minotaur skewered itself on Ma’non’go’s trident as it bellowed in
pain. Blood poured from the minotaur’s mouth as it collapsed, and the surprised
look on its face only lifted when the light left its eyes.
shook her head as the companions searched the minotaurs’ bodies. She’d noticed
how long and straight this passage was, and that it was ideal for her to cast a
lightning bolt to destroy any line of enemies coming at them. Her companions had
quickly understood what she’d needed them to do, and Amyalla congratulated her
on her cleverness.
considered Kalrek to be cleverer, though. His minions probably wouldn’t have
fought well beside one another. By sending his minions out into the cave
passages, Kalrek reduced the risk of his minions turning on each other. He also
forced the companions to waste their strength fighting the minions before they
ever reached his lair. The companions were lucky to have only encountered two
groups of Kalrek’s minions, and Seline could only imagine how many other groups
were still out there.
already used more of her magic fighting Kalrek’s minions than she would have
preferred. She wondered how many dwarves and gnomes Kalrek had as his personal
guard, knowing all too well how both races were resistant to magical attacks.
Seline usually enjoyed intellectual puzzles,
and the challenge of how to creatively employ her magic in resolving them, but
she was not optimistic about the companions’ chances.
The passage led the companions
into a chamber that contained a breathtaking sight. The chamber was worked and
well-crafted, with carved red, green and gold crystals set into the walls. The
crystals caught the light of the companions’ lanterns, reflecting the light
into a rainbow of colors all around them.
To Luna, it felt as if she was almost
in the midst of a glowing gemstone, the colors spreading warmth and protection
all around her even as they seemed to draw her closer to the gem’s core.
Glancing around at her companions, Luna saw that they felt the same comfort she
did. Only Airk was different, his expression showing familiarity as well as
“Crystals of protection and welcome,” Airk
muttered under his breath.
“Was this complex built by gnomes?” Luna asked
“Aye, though it’s likely been centuries since
any of us lived here,” Airk said without looking back as he led the companions
through the doorway in the far wall of the chamber.
The companions emerged into a passage with the
same kind of stonework as the chamber. They admired the care and skill that had
clearly gone into the stonework, skill that was reflected in the solidity of
the structure around them.
After several minutes of walking, the
companions came to a junction. The passage continued ahead, continuing to show
the same stonework the companions had seen so far. Now, though, a gaping hole
had been torn in the wall to their left. Looking into the darkened chamber
beyond the hole, the companions saw broken debris and rubbish. Although Amyalla
and the human members of the group lacked Airk’s knowledge of stonework, they
could see how crudely wrought the stone in the new cavern was.
“I take it the new inhabitants have done some
remodeling,” Amyalla said.
Airk didn’t answer and continued leading the
companions down the passage, his expression grimmer than ever.
The companions came into a wide chamber full of
smaller caves and passages leading off from it. According to Airk, this place
would have been the residential area for many of the gnomes that once lived
here. The companions saw torches placed beneath the colored crystals, and they
saw how recently the torches had been set.
Luna felt her heart begin pounding as a chill
went down her spine.
Amyalla started, and raised her hand
wordlessly. Her friends stood still, and then they all recognized the sounds
she’d heard. The sounds were of footsteps, laughter and rattled swords, the
sounds of armed warriors expecting a fight.
Amyalla pointed to herself and then towards the
sounds, as her friends nodded.
Soon she was gone, vanished among the shadows.
Luna agonized with worry until Amyalla finally
came back, describing everything she’d seen.
Luna felt sick at what the companions would
have to do, but she knew that the consequences of not doing it would be far, far
The gnomes Durginn and Ludrock
were part of Kalrek’s inner circle, those gnomes, dwarves and men who were more
devoted to Kalrek than most of the brigands and monsters who made up his
followers. Kalrek didn’t send his inner circle into the tunnels along with the
rest of his followers, because his inner circle knew that the brigands and
killers were only fodder. The brigands were only meant to gather wealth, and to
fight and die like the expendable fools they were. Durginn, Ludrock and the
rest of Kalrek’s most devoted supporters would exult in the glory he would
Durginn and Ludrock were not
surprised to hear the sounds of clashing swords and shouting voices coming from
that part of the complex where the lower-ranking brigands stayed. Kalrek had
posted guards at all of the main entrances to his personal part of the complex,
and directed other soldiers to help them if any of the guard posts were
attacked. Already, Durginn and Ludrock could see several gnomes, spriggans and
men running towards the brigands’ area.
“Lord Kalrek’s enemies, do you
think?” Durginn asked.
“Maybe,” Ludrock said, “but it’s
just as likely wanderers pokin’ their undersized noses where they don’t belong.
Derro or ogres, per’aps. Not that it matters, of course,” he finished, raising
his sword with an evil grin.
As the two gnomes joined the
guards’ charge, an alarm bell began ringing to alert more of them. Loud cheers
echoed throughout the complex, joining with the sound of rumbling footsteps as
Kalrek’s warriors prepared to slay the intruders.
The first group of guards who arrived in the
brigands’ chamber were so eager for a fight that they didn’t think about why
the four guards set to protect that portion of the complex were already dead.
The chamber was empty aside from the guards’ bodies, with only the sounds of
battle echoing around them.
The guards looked to one another in confusion,
before they understood what was happening.
trick!” one spriggan howled, realizing the sounds that had lured them there
came from a magical illusion.
away, lads! Don’t be marchin’ too close together!” one dwarf said.
spriggan and the dwarf had to shout to make their voices heard over the sounds
of the illusion. None of the soldiers heard the wizard chanting, although a few
of them saw her as she materialized into sight. They couldn’t react before the
wizard waved her wand, releasing a blistering cloud of steam that filled the
air. Many of the soldiers howled in agony, scalded by the heat of the steam,
and several fell dead immediately.
the soldiers who survived the steam shot crossbows and threw daggers at the
wizard as she quickly backed up. Unfortunately, their missiles seemed to fall
short, falling at the wizard’s feet as if repelled by some invisible barrier.
A few of
the soldiers managed to get close enough to attack the wizard with their melee
weapons, but then two men came up to block their way. One of them was a huge
dark-skinned man dressed in multicolored clothes and carrying a trident. The
other was a more slender man with paler skin and hair, carrying an axe and a
shield. Kalrek’s soldiers struck at them, determined to cut the men down so
they could reach the wizard, but what the two men lacked in numbers they more
than made up for in skill.
Kalrek’s soldiers managed to avoid the steam cloud, and they tried to find a
way around it to reach the two warriors. They were caught off guard when two
more warriors emerged from a side tunnel. One of the new arrivals was a large
Flan man dressed in plate armor and wielding a huge broadsword. The other
warrior was a gnome dressed in plate armor similar to his Flan companion’s, but
wielding a bloody morning star instead of a sword. Kalrek’s soldiers eagerly
attacked the two warriors, but these warriors were just as skilled as their
peers guarding the wizard.
began chanting again, using her wand to fill the chamber with thick fog.
Kalrek’s soldiers were blinded as they tried to strike at the warriors. Several
of the soldiers, half-crazed by anger and pain, began lashing out at each
other, and everything fell into chaos. Some of the soldiers knocked each other
into the steam cloud that still filled most of the chamber, while others struck
at anything that seemed to get too close.
A few of the
soldiers tried to rally their fellows, but their efforts were too little, too
late. By the time the steam and fog cleared, over two score of Kalrek’s soldiers
were dead. The few survivors were no match for the victorious companions.
companions gathered in the center of the chamber, looking to one another with
grim satisfaction. Luna reached into her pocket and retrieved a vial of holy
water as she chanted a spell. Dipping her finger in the vial, Luna prayed to
Pelor to bless their efforts in the coming battle. Luna daubed each of her
friends with the holy water, signifying the support Pelor would offer them,
until she came to Airk.
his head before Luna could bless him, the shame all too evident on his face.
“Airk…please…” Luna said.
“No,” Airk said, shaking his head. “You know I
Tears formed in Luna’s eyes as she resealed the
vial of holy water and put it away. As she picked up her mace and shield, she
knew there was little she could say.