The cast of heroes
Arken (Half-Elf Cleric) – leader of the partyBardan (Human Fighter) – the muscle
Knil (Elf Ranger) – the tracker
Korum Proudfoot (Halfling Thief) – the scout
Rioja Hyrule (Human Mage) – the wizard (on holiday)
Kima (Black Domestic Cat) – his familiar (on holiday)
Another Set of Doors (Year 2 Day 54)
The adventurers rested up before searching the rest of the cavern. There was nothing of interest held there; even the entrance the snake used was just an old dried-up waterway that revealed nothing when Korum was boosted up by Bardan to take a look. The party decided to see where the tunnel opposite led and found it was very similar to the first tunnel they had walked down. The tunnel twisted and turned and eventually ended at a large set of doors. Unfortunately there were no handles or keyholes on this side and the hinges were too big to break even with magically induced Giant strength. The party searched the floor and walls for signs of a secret latch but found nothing.
After about an hour of searching one of the lookout men-at-arms hushed them to silence; they all then heard the distinct sound of slithering. The party formed up into combat positions in readiness for what would come around the corner. An enormous snake, larger than the one they previously encountered slithered into view. It stopped and hissed as it spotted Knil aiming up on its snout with an arrow knocked in his bow.
Everything seemed to happen at once. Knil let loose with several shafts at the snake, along with the other archers in the party. Arken, who had been gathering creepy crawlies to try out a new spell, produced a millipede from his pouch and flung it at the snake whilst muttering prayers to his god. The millipede grew to enormous proportions as it flew through the air. Frightened and angered by the pain and noise of the sudden attack, the snake reared up and let loose a lightning bolt at Knil, singeing his armour.
Bardan, Korum and the millipede all attacked the snake simultaneously whilst Arken prepared another of his spells. The party felt strength surge through their veins and the snake seemed to lose a bit of its confidence. All of the fighters hacked away at the snake, with Korum’s attacks from behind its head causing it grievous wounds.
Suddenly, the snake pulled back and let loose another of its lightning bolts at Korum, hitting him square in the chest. This caused Bardan to miss his swing on the snake and crush the millipede beneath his magical axe, severing its head and several legs at the same time.
The snake redoubled its attacks on the combatant causing it the most pain, so Korum took another great wound from the snake’s teeth. This, however, opened up the snake to renewed attack from the rest of the party; all hit with their axes and swords, and every arrow found its mark.
Korum was becoming weaker now through loss of blood but managed to find enough strength in his arms to deliver a further blow to the reptile. All the others managed to hit the weakened snake again just as it reared up to deliver the final blow to the little thief. Knil and the archers made their arrows tell, each striking the snake at a vulnerable point causing it to collapse. Korum, dazed and confused chopped its head off in a final act of fury before he collapsed exhausted.
Arken sped over to Korum and administered all of his remaining Healing spells on him, restoring him to reasonable health again, but he was still very sore and the wounds threatened to reopen at any time. At this juncture, the party decided it wise to rest up and allow Arken to recover his spells, whilst they ate a good meal and continued their searches for a secret lever or switch for the doors.
Fearing that what lay beyond the doors may be another set of statues, the party prepared for the worst before attempting to open the doors by brute strength. Arken and Bardan, aided by their Girdles of Giant Strength, began to batter on the doors until they started to open inch by inch.
The Other Side of the Mountains (Day 55)
Korum poked his head through when the gap was big enough to report back that there was only one statue on this side of the mountain but it was twice the size of the others they had previously encountered. Also, it was ready to strike the first person who stepped through the door.
Arken prepared another of the creepy crawlies in his pack for combat and the band of adventurers prepared themselves for another toe-to-toe contest.
The millipede, under volition from its master Arken, went straight into the attack followed by Bardan. Korum quickly scouted round the back of the statue to try to find a vulnerable area to attack and struck a mighty blow creating a great dent in its armour. Bardan also hit the statue, but the statue replied by crushing the giant bug with its enormous double-sized sword. This sword stroke frightened Korum a little as he was still suffering from his wounds when fighting the giant snake, so he leapt away from the combat ready to re-enter when the statue was on its last legs or his companions needed a diversion.
A flurry of arrows from Knil and the archers hit the statue causing it to miss Bardan who managed to get in a mighty blow of his axe. Now in a terrible state of repair, the party saw that the metal titan was badly damaged so hit it with another flurry of blows. This caused some confusion to the metallic guardian as it was not sure whether to strike the foes in front of it or the source of the annoying arrows that were unerringly hitting it on a regular basis. A few more attacks from the party weakened it further but it renewed its fight by striking the cleric and fighter in turn, Arken taking the full brunt of the guardian’s strength. Seeing his friend seriously wounded spurred Korum back into action and he struck it from behind in a vital spot causing it to turn around. Bardan and Arken seized their opportunity and struck the metal construct down with mighty blows from their axe and mace. It quickly crumpled and turned to a pile of rust coloured remains revealing a large gem stone where the keys were in the smaller constructs. Bardan picked up the gemstone and placed it into his pouch.
Recovering their breath, the party looked around whilst the men-at-arms began to make camp. Arken retired straight to his bedrolls to recover his spells. The others satisfied themselves with a warm meal and taking stock of their surroundings. Outside of the doors in the mountain was a large open area with foothills to either side. The open area widened onto a plain that stretched for many leagues before ending at a solitary mountain with what looked like a large keep on top of it. That would be the lair of the Dark Lord they surmised.
The party decided to rest up over night and continue their travels the next day. Korum, knowing that Rioja would need more than just a trail of destruction to follow, used his chalk to create messages written in a way that only Rioja would understand, giving details of what they had encountered and where they were headed.
The Messenger (Day 56)
The party travelled several miles that day and made camp again in the middle of the large plain. There was nothing of note to be seen except for the mountains behind them and the solitary one in front. They set watches through the night.
On the fourth watch, Arken and his archer companion spotted a lone rider silhouetted by the moon about one hundred feet away. They hailed him in a voice loud enough to wake the rest of the camp and he announced that he was a messenger from the Dark Master. He moved to within twenty feet but stopped before the party could get the chance to surprise attack him. He tried to get information out of them as to what their mission was but only got bravado and abuse back for his efforts. This annoyed the rider so he made to ride off, but Knil and the other archers shot his horse from under him. He gracefully avoided being thrown and stood facing the party as they approached. Arken struck him with his hammer, breaking his left leg thus stopping him running away to tell his master of their approach and any plans he may have discovered.
After a quick interrogation and an attempt to convert him to the side of good proved fruitless, Arken decided he no longer deserved to live, so broke his neck and proceeded to add him to the small retinue of zombies he was creating (made up of all who refused to stop their wicked ways and turn back to the side of good). Korum quickly searched his pockets only to find his orders which were: to find the party, see what they were up to and report back with any details.
The Cavalry (Day 57-58)
The next morning, party of adventurers continued on with their journey across the plain, the mountain and keep in the distance growing in size with every step they took towards it. However, it was still a good couple of days’ travel away, so they made camp as it started to get dark. An uneventful night and a hearty breakfast the following morning recuperated their energy so they set out again in the direction of the castle.
A few hours after sunrise, the keener eyed members of the party spotted a large dust cloud in the distance, and picked out a large body of mounted troops headed in their direction. As the distance between the two parties narrowed to just a hundred or so yards they all stopped and eyed each other up. The captain of the mounted troop spurred his horse forward to parley.
He stopped just a few yards away and told them his terms. The party were to accompany him and his troops to the Dark Master where they would be treated with respect. However, they must surrender all of their weapons and goods and travel under his command. Arken did not take too kindly to being ordered about by a mere soldier and told him what he thought of his idea. He also suggested that the captain and his men should switch sides and help destroy his master and all that was bad if he knew what was good for him. The captain just chuckled lightly and repeated his offer as escort. The party drew their weapons to show their intent so the captain returned to his troop, who all dismounted and readied their swords and shields.
Korum and Bardan opened the proceedings with a couple of the fire bombs still in Bardan’s back pack. Several of the troopers went down screaming in agony as their flesh burned from their bones, which caused the mounted troops some consternation as there could be no possible way a man, let alone a Halfling, could throw anything that far so accurately and with such force. A few choice words from their commander set them back to their task though.
Arken grabbed another bug from his pouch, this time a tarantula spider, and cast it at the oncoming troops with the aid of his size changing spell. This also caused confusion and not a few deaths in the ranks of the enemy before it too was put down. The enemy troops reformed their ranks and began advancing again towards the adventurers.
Meanwhile, Knil and the other archers had poured arrow after arrow into the ranks of the oncoming cohorts and a final couple of fire bombs from Bardan and Korum finished the ranged attacks.
Many of the troopers had succumbed to these ferocious attacks, but the iron will of their commander kept them advancing towards the party, who they now had surrounded. The enemy closed ranks and charged into the small knot of brave heroes.
Over the course of the next half hour, a bloody, hotly contested battle was fought. The first ranks of the enemy were wiped out but stronger, better armed warriors joined the fight now that the cannon fodder had been used up. The continual grind of numbers eventually took their toll as one-by-one the party’s men-at-arms fell to the strokes of the enemy swordsmen. The adventurers themselves had started to take some grievous wounds but were continually healed by Arken as the battle wore on. Even though several dozen bodies littered the ground around the party, the enemy still advanced. On several occasions Arken called for their captain to surrender but he kept throwing more men into the fight; fear of the Dark Master obviously held more sway than fear of the adventurers in front of them.
Korum realised that the only way they could now win this fight would be to take out the leader. He gauged that as there was only the leader and his four bodyguards, he might be able to sneak in and assassinate him before he was spotted, especially if he drank his Potion of Invisibility to get closer. He called for Arken to throw him over the melee towards the captain, and drank his potion, disappearing from sight. Arken, protected by his spells, and using his Girdle’s strength easily threw Korum over the heads of the combatants. Korum landed softly with the aid of his Ring of Feather Falling a few yards from the captain. Using all his skill, he advanced to within striking distance and gave the captain a mighty blow which caused him great harm. Unfortunately, this action caused Korum to become visible straight away and even though the leader and his bodyguard were surprised, he was unable to strike again because he fumbled his sword thrust and dropped his sword. As he moved to retrieve it, the four bodyguards clubbed him into unconsciousness.
Seeing their little colleague collapse under the blows, Arken and Bardan smashed their way through the ranks of the remaining swordsmen using their Giants’ strength to try to heal him and take out the captain on their own, but this finally broke their solid ranks and led to Knil being severely wounded and dropping into unconsciousness. Arken stopped to try to help out Knil, but this left Bardan on his own and several troopers managed to wrestle him to the ground and club him too into darkness just as the final few blows of the melee took down Arken.
The Dark Master (Day 59)
Some time later, each of the adventurers awoke to swollen heads and several bruises. Each was locked in a small, dark cell with no windows and only a barred door to the front. The only light came from a small torch in a sconce several feet away on the wall opposite next to the only door into the block. All of their weapons, armour and equipment had been taken from them and they stood only in their everyday clothing.
Rattling the doors and looking for something to use as a weapon proved fruitless as the only items within the cells were dirty straw mattresses and a flimsy bucket for their waste.
A few minutes after they had stopped their commotion the door opened. In limped the captain of the troopers with a smug grin on his face. He told them that they were now in the dungeons of his Dark Master and would be met by his greatness shortly. If they did not agree to his master’s terms then he would have the pleasure of torturing an agreement out of them. The party all put on a show of bravado but knew their situation was grim. The captain left the chamber with a dry chuckle. They would need Rioja and their own troops to rescue them from this dire situation.
An hour or two later the keys to the outer door rattled again and a dark-cowled figure entered the room. In a coarse voice he praised the party for their bravery and fighting skills, mentioning that he could do with great fighters like them within his ranks. He offered Bardan the captaincy of his guard if he would just change his allegiance. Bardan spat at the robed figure as a response. He then turned to Koru and offered him all the riches he could ever dream of, but the little thief responded that he was already rich beyond anything that the Dark Master could offer him. He tried a similar trick with Arken and Knil but both refused his cooing voice and tempting offers. The Dark Master chuckled to himself and mentioned that they would soon see the error of their ways as their fellowship bonds could not be that strong because one of their party had already left for pastures new; Rioja obviously found their company too mundane to be around. Leaving that thought in their minds he glided back out of the room.
A few more hours passed and the rattle of keys was heard again. This time a gaoler entered the room. He asked them to pass their slops buckets out through the small grille at the bottom of each door, and then emptied them into a solitary one to take away later. Without washing his hands he then passed each of them a bowl of stew without any utensils through the same hole. He picked up the slops bucket and left again.
Chewing through the woody vegetables and gristly meat Korum’s teeth jarred on a small bone. He searched through the rest of his gruel and found that there were a couple more small sharp bones. A smile slowly spread across his face.