Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part II - Orc Season - Part 4
They were back at the intersection where Seth and Lloyd and lost the orc priest’s trail. Two tunnels split off from the main one. The first side tunnel headed northwest and the second side tunnel headed northeast.
“So which way do we go?” Glorfindle asked.
Seth said, “I say we take the northwest tunnel first.”
“Sounds good to me,” Aksel replied, “Anyone else?”
The rest of them just shook their heads.
“Northwest it is,” the cleric announced.
They slowly made their way down the passage. The ground sloped downward marking their further descent underground. Seth was in the lead once again, fifty feet or so ahead of the others. The passageway began turning to the north after awhile and then leveled off. They continued along for awhile then saw Seth stopped ahead. When they reached him Aksel asked, “What is it now?”
“Another pit trap,” the little ninja replied.
Sure enough, blocking the entire tunnel ahead was another pit trap exactly like the one they had come across in the upper chamber off the main cavern the orcs had been camped in. Except that there were no wood planks on this side to put across the hole. Glorfindle shined his staff down the pit and they saw the same spears imbedded in the ground points up, making a fall into the hole deadly.
“So do we go back to the main cavern and bring those boards down here?” Glorfindle asked.
“That would take a lot of time, and the day is more than halfway over already,” Aksel replied.
“I can jump it,” Seth said.
“So can I,” Lloyd added.
“Well, Seth, why don’t you go first and see what you can find on the other side of the pit,” Aksel decided.
They rest of the party moved to either side of the tunnel making room for the little halfling. Seth backed up a few paces down the corridor and then took a running start. He leaped in the air and went flying over the pit, easily landing on the other side.
“Nice jump,” Elvisda commented.
Seth just smiled on the other side. “It was nothing,” the little ninja replied. Then he got busy searching around the other side of the pit. He disappeared down the passageway. A minute or so later he returned. “There are some boards a few yards down the tunnel. I could use a hand lifting them.”
“I’ll be right over,” Lloyd answered. The big man mimicked Seth’s moves and backed up a few paces. Then he too went running and launched himself in the air. His strong legs propelled his great mass in a huge leap and he went flying over the pit trap and landed deftly on the other side, easily clearing the hole.
“You move pretty good their big fella,” Elvisda applauded.
Lloyd turned back and gave them a thumbs up, then stood and followed Seth down the tunnel. A few minutes later they both reappeared carrying a long board. The slowly lowered it across the hole and Glendor and the rest of the caught it on the other side and laid it down. The warblade and ninja turned and went back down the tunnel returning a minute later with another board. They repeated the same process.
“That should do it,” Seth said.
Glorfindle, Elvisda and Aksel easily crossed the boards to the other side. They creaked a bit when Glendor crossed, his full plate making him weight quite a bit more than the others. But the fighter made it to the other side unscathed.
The group began moving again down the passageway. A few hundred yards further the tunnel opened up into a broad cavern. At the far end was a pool of water. The approached it and saw that the cavern opened further to the right, the pool continuing in that direction. The water stretched about 30 feet wide and was crystal clear. It was quite deep, at least 10 feet down from what they could see at this end. But it was too dark to see how long the pool was.
“Allow me,” Elvisda said. The bard gathered some components from a bag at his belt. Then he spoke a couple of quick words and cast a spell. About 30 feet out on the water, a light appeared near the ceiling of the cavern. The light was dancing and wiggling around. The bard cast the spell three more times, and three more lights appeared, one about 50 feet away, another about 80 feet away and a last one 100 feet away.
“Look, there’s the other side,” Glorfindle pointed. Sure enough, the pool was only about 120 feet long. They moved a bit closer to the edge, when suddenly something dropped in front of them, splashing in the water and wetting them. They all jumped back and drew their weapons.
An odd figure climbed out of the pool. It looked almost triangular in shape. Then it began to quickly move along the edge of the water until it reached the wall. The thing then climbed up the wall and across the top of the ceiling.
“What was that?” Glendor asked.
“I’m not sure, but there’s a whole lot more of them on the ceiling,” Seth pointed out.
They all looked up and saw dozens of triangular shaped figures attached to the ceiling and moving around in the light. They were the same color as the rock with their wide base against the roof of the cavern. Their bodies tapered down into a sharp point at the bottom. They could barely make out small eyes and a tiny mouth on each creature.
“They’re piercers,” Aksel said. “You don’t want to get under one when they fall. It’ll skewer you.”
Two more of the creatures dropped from the ceiling and hit the water, not far from the party. Then the creatures climbed out of the pool and up the wall to the ceiling once again.
“So what do we do now?” Glorfindle asked.
“There’s more wood up their by the trap,” Seth replied.
“You’re suggesting we make a raft,” the wizard said nodding. “Good idea. We have the rope to lash the boards together. But what do we do about the Piercers?”
“I can take care of that,” Elvisda replied taking out his lute. “I’ll play them a lullaby. It will put the little critters to sleep and we can just sail across the water underneath them.”
“Ok,” Aksel said, “let’s get to building that raft.”
Lloyd and Glendor went back with Glorfindle to retrieve the boards. They came back a few minutes later with some boards and then went back to get a few more. Meanwhile the others began lashing them together.
Every once in awhile they would hear a splash in the pool. They would turn and see another of the little creatures climbing back up the wall.
It took about twenty minutes, but by the time they were done, they had a raft that could hold most of them.
“It will never hold me,” Glendor observed.
“Can you swim?” Lloyd asked him.
“Not very well in this full plate,” the fighter replied.
“What if you hold on to the back of the raft?” Aksel suggested.
“The rest of us could move towards the front to balance it out,” Glorfindle added.
“I’ll try it if it’s ok with the rest of you,” Glendor responded.
It was decided. They pushed the raft to the edge of the water, and Elvisda began playing his tune. The Piercers nearest them slowly stopped moving on the ceiling and stopped dropping into the water.
“It’s now or never,” the bard announced.
They pushed the raft into the water and the group boarded moving towards the front. Glendor got into the water and held onto the other end. Lloyd and Glorfindle both held makeshift paddles they had broken off from one of the wooden boards. They began to row across the pool. Glendor kicked as best he could with his full plate on to help move the raft along.
Elvisda sat in the very front. As they moved out onto the water, more Piercers began to fall in front of them. The bard began to play his lute again, and the splashing stopped, the creatures in front of them falling asleep. They kept this up till they reached the other side of the pool. Then the party disembarked, helping Glendor out of the water, and then pulling the raft out of the water. Behind them the splashing began once again.
They turned around and saw they were in a small chamber, only about 30 feet in diameter. In the center of the chamber was an altar. There was a figure of a woman on it with beautiful wings and her hands upraised. They approached it and saw that there was some writing at the base of the altar.
“I recognize the figure,” Aksel said. “It is a storm maiden, a servant of the God Alaric, the Lord of Storms.”
“I can make out the writing,” Glorfindle said closing examining the statue. “It says, He who is pure of heart, kneel before me and pray, and thou shall be rewarded.”
“If I remember my ancient lore correctly, Alaric was always one to help those in need,” Elvisda said.
“That is my understanding of the storm God as well,” Aksel added.
“Well, anyone care to try praying to Alaric?” Glorfindle asked.
“I will,” Glendor said. The big fighter knelt down and bowed his head. He stayed in that position for what seemed forever, but really was only a couple of minutes. Then the statue began to glow. It became extremely bright, in fact too bright to look out. They had to shield their eyes. When the glow faded, the statue was holding an amulet in its hand. Glendor expressed his thanks to the God of Storms and then got up and took the amulet.
“What is it?” Seth asked.
“May I?” Glorfindle asked the big fighter.
“Surely,” Glendor replied handing the amulet over to the wizard.
Glorfindle concentrated a moment and then said, “It is an amulet that makes the wearer resistant to electricity.”
“That sounds handy,” Elvisda commented.
“Anyone else care to try?” Aksel asked.
Lloyd step forward. “I will,” the young man said. He kneeled in front of the statue as Glendor had done and began to pray a well. After a minute, the same thing happened. The statue began to glow and got so bright the party had to once again avert their eyes. When the glow faded, this time there was a sword in the maiden’s hands. Lloyd stood up, thanked Alaric, and took the sword in his hands. The blade seemed to spark as the big warblade lifted it up. He turned and held the sword out to the wizard. “Can you check this too?”
“Of course,” Glorfindle replied. The elf concentrated a few moments and said, “It is a sword of Shock. Upon the wielder’s command it is sheathed in electrical energy and will deal that damage to foes on impact.”
“Nice sword,” Seth said approvingly.
“Yeah,” Lloyd replied, “but I’ve already got these,” the warblade replied pointing at the two huge blades strapped across his back. He turned to Glendor and said, “Would you be able to use this blade?” and he held out the shock sword in front of him.
Glendor was speechless. When he finally found his tongue he said, “I do not know what to say. Only that it is an honor that you present me with such a gift. I am not sure I am worthy.”
“Alaric seemed to think so,” Elvisda commented.
“Lloyd you are kidding right?” Seth asked Lloyd, “You do realize that sword is a lot more powerful then the two you have.”
Lloyd turned to look at the halfling and said “This small thing? It would just throw off my balance.”
Seth just shook his head.
“Well then, if it is still ok with everyone, I will accept your gracious offer,” Glendor replied, bowing to Lloyd.
Everyone nodded their agreement except for Seth. The little ninja just said, “Whatever,” and turned and walked away.
Glendor took the sword in his hand and held it up high. “I pledge to use this sword in the defense of all that is holy and to smite down those that would bring unjust harm upon others.” And with that, he sheathed the sword.
“Nice speech,” Elvisda applauded.
Lloyd clasped the big man on the back.
Then Aksel said, “Ok, now about getting back out of here…”
The party had made it back across the pool and over the pit trap without incident. They were on their way back up to the intersection of tunnels to try the northeast branch when Seth came running back down the passageway.
“Cube!” he cried pointing back up the tunnel.
Glorfindle moved to the front and raised his staff. The light shown down the corridor and bounced back off of something about 50 feet away, wiggling like jellow. It seemed to fill the entire tunnel ten feet across and up to the ceiling. It was a translucent and a sickly green in color. And it was moving towards them.
Glorfindle lifted his finger and spoke a word. Three purple missiles leapt from his fingertips and careened their way across the cavern connecting with the cube. The projectiles exploded and caused three concussion waves to ripple through the creature. But the cube kept on coming, not slowing down a bit.
“Quick, back across the pit!” Aksel yelled.
They all turned and ran back towards the pit.
Glorfindle brought up the rear and fired again at the gelatinous creature as he ran. All three missiles connected again with the same effect.
The party reached the pit and ran across. Glorfindle turned and fired again at the cube. Again all three projectiles connected causing three more concussion waves to ripple through the creature.
“Quick, lift up the boards so it can’t get across,” Elvisda said.
“Wait,” Aksel cried. “Look at the cube. Something is happening to it.”
The little cleric was right. The cube had stopped at the edge of the pit and was wiggling back and forth quite a bit more than before. Then it began to dissolve. There was a hissing noise and it became shorter and shorter. Green smoke rose from its insides. When it was over, all that was left was a pool of green liquid ooze. The pool still smoked a bit then that too was gone.
“You did it!” they all cried and pounded the wizard on the back.
“Thanks,” Glorfindle said, “I think…” The wizard gingerly rubbed his back on the spot where Lloyd and Glendor had expressed their appreciation.
Seth had already crossed back over the pit and was carefully examining the remains of the cube. “I found something,” the little ninja called.
“Careful, it could still have traces of acid on it,” Aksel called back.
“Do I look stupid?” Seth replied.
“You want an honest answer?” Glorfindle said deadpan.
The little ninja just stared at the wizard. Then he said, “Fine. I’ll let that one slide since you were nice enough to kill this thing for us. Now, seriously, come here and look at this.”
They all came over, careful to avoid the still lingering pools of acid. In the center of one pool, there was an object on the ground. Upon closer inspection, they realized it was a hammer. But not just any hammer. It was large, with a lightning bolt carved on one side and letters written along another side.
“Do you know what they say?” Seth asked Glorfindle.
“I’m not sure,” the wizard replied. “It seems to be some obscure language I’ve never seen before. The words read Marteau Foudre. Does that mean anything to anyone?”
They all shook their heads.
“Well let’s get this cleaned off and take it with us,” Glorfindle said. He grabbed a cloth and wiped down the hammer. Then he went to pick it up, but it wouldn’t budge. “This thing is really heavy,” the wizard panted. “Lloyd, perhaps you should try.”
The big warblade stood over the hammer and tried to lift it with one hand. He could barely move it. Then he grasped it with two hands. He was able to lift it that way. Wielding it, however, would be a whole different matter.
“Ok, let’s get back to finding that orc priest,” Aksel said.
They climbed back up the passage to the place where the three tunnels intersected. This time they went down the north east passageway. Seth was scouting ahead once again.
They continued down the tunnel a few hundred feet and it also began to turn north. They continued moving forward when Seth motioned them to stop. He held his finger to his lips. They listened. At first it was quiet. Then they could hear faint chanting coming from somewhere up ahead.
“I think we may have found our priest,” Glorfindle whispered.
“Seth, can you check it out?” Aksel asked.
“Sure,” the ninja replied. He wrapped his cloak around himself and disappeared. He was gone about ten minutes and then they heard his disembodied voice. “There is a cavern up ahead. There is some kind of weird stone circle in the middle. And our orc priest is there with a friend. They are both standing around the circle and chanting.”
“What does the circle look like?” Glorfindle asked.
Seth knelt down and drew a picture in the dirt. The wizard studied it for a minute and then said, “It’s a summoning circle.”
“Hmm,” Aksel murmured, “I wonder what they are trying to summon?”
“Whatever it is, it can’t be good,” Seth observed.
“Well then,” Elvisda said, “Let’s put a crimp in their plans.”
They decided that Seth would sneak in and work his way behind the farthest orc. The others would wait five minutes, then Lloyd, Glendor and the others would charge in. The group snuck down to the end of the tunnel. They peered around the corner and saw the two orcs standing around the stone circle, staffs raised and singing a horrible sounding chant.
On Aksel’s signal, Lloyd and Glendor charged into the room. One orc had its back to them, but the other one saw them and stopped chanting. He began to cast a spell and then suddenly cried out clutching at his back. The other priest had already turned around to see the two big men charging at him. The orc froze. At the last minute he tried to cast a spell, but it was too late. Lloyd cut him down with two quick swipes of his swords. Meanwhile, Seth had finished off the other orc.
“That was quick!” Elvisda cried.
“Yes, nicely done,” Aksel added.
Glorfindle, meanwhile had walked over to the summoning circle and was studying it intently. A few minutes went by and he finally looked up.
“Well?” Aksel asked.
“I think they were trying to summon a demon. And not just any demon. I think it was a demon lord” the wizard said.
“Where would simple orcs like these come across the knowledge to summon a demon lord?” Aksel mused.
“There is more going on here than we obviously know,” Glorfindle replied. “But either way, we cannot leave this circle here. It must be destroyed.”
“Maybe Lloyd here can smash it with that hammer we found,” Elvisda suggested.
“I would love to,” Lloyd replied, “but I don’t think I can swing it hard enough to do any real damage.”
“That can be fixed,” Glorfindle said. “Take out the hammer.”
Lloyd took the heavy object out of his pack. Meanwhile, the wizard took out some components out a bag on his belt. He made some hand movements, said a couple of words, and touched Lloyd on the shoulder.
The big warblade glowed momentarily and then said, “I feel stronger!” He picked up the hammer with two hands and easily swung it up over his head. He walked over to the stone circle and stood in the very middle. He hoisted the hammer over his head and brought it down with incredible force on the center of the circle. There was a tremendous bang followed by the sound of cracking stone. Lloyd lifted the hammer high over his head and brought it down again. Another huge bang rang out followed by more cracking stone. The warblade lifted the hammer up one more time and brought it down on the circle. The was a resounding smash and the entire circle fragmented into dozens of pieces.
Lloyd put the hammer back into his pack and walked over to the others. “I told you he could do it!” Elvisda clapped the warblade on his back.
“We never had any doubts,” Seth replied. “So what now?”
“It is getting late in the day by my calculations,” Aksel said. “We could do a little more exploring around the tunnels, but we have fulfilled our mission. The orc bandits are either dead or gone. They won’t be bothering travelers to Restenford anymore.”
“Amen to that,” Elvisda said.
The party of adventurers made their way back up to the intersection of tunnels. When they got there, they heard noises coming from the west tunnel.
“Seth…” Aksel began.
“On it,” the ninja replied. He turned invisible and headed down the west passageway. Five minutes later he returned and said, “There are drow warriors down there. About eight of them, fully decked out in black armor and armed to the teeth. They also have some slaves with them. About twenty hobgoblins, currently chained up.”
“What are drow warriors doing here?” Elvisda asked.
“Maybe they are looking for the orcs!” Glorfindle exclaimed. “If the orcs were working for the drow, that would explain how they knew enough to create that summon circle for a demon lord.”
“But why would the drow want the orcs to waylay caravans?” Elvisda wondered.
“Maybe that wasn’t part of the deal,” Glorfindle continued. “Maybe the orcs were just supposed to be doing something for the drow in these caves. Maybe they just got greedy and decided to get some extra gold from attacking the caravans.”
“That’s a great theory,” Aksel replied, “but we can talk about that more later. I think that right now the wise thing to do would be to head back to Restenford, report our findings and rest up before we do anything else.”
“Well we better make up our minds quick,” Seth cautioned. “Those drow are headed this way.”
“Fine, let’s go,” Glorfindle conceded.
“Ok,” Lloyd said reluctantly.
“Don’t worry big guy,” Elvisda said sympathetically. “I’m sure there’ll be plenty of things to kill in the future.”
Lloyd smiled back at the bard.
The group moved quickly east down the passageway, through the cavern where the orcs had been camped and to the well. One by one they climbed up the rope, and pulled it up behind them when they were done. Seth was the last one up.
“I heard the drow enter the cavern just before I climbed up,” the ninja said. “They were definitely looking for the orcs.”
“Drow?” Brundon asked. “Did you say Drow?” his voice rose an octave.
“Pipe down Brundon,” Seth replied, “they’re down in the cavern and we pulled up the rope. Even if they knew we were here, we’ll be long gone by the time they get here.”
The high strung ranger settled down.
The group gathered their gear and brought the horses and dogs outside. It was already dark as it was early evening. They mounted their steeds, Glorfindle sharing his with Elvisda. Speed was of the essence and so they headed straight south trusting the darkness to cover their progress. As soon as they got to the west road, they turned east and headed at a fast past back to Restenford.