Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls (cause there's a crapload of kobolds back there)

As we made our way around the side of the waterfall and into the cavern, we began to hear activity inside. Anca led us forward, cautiously inching along the damp wall until we could see dim lighting at the end of the tunnel. Sounds of many creatures growling and yelping reached our ears and confirmed our suspicions – we’d found the kobold lair.

I put a finger to my lips to quiet everyone as we crept to end of the tunnel. We saw a rough cavern in front of us, with several open rooms. Near the back of the cavern, the hewn rock floors and walls gave way to impressive stonework, indicating that at one time this was more than just a simple kobold hideout. There were dozens of kobolds scurrying chaotically about just at the edge of our sightline.

I took this all in in a second, but what grabbed my immediate attention were the ten kobold minions and three larger kobolds facing the entryway that provided our current hiding place. They had weapons drawn and although they seemed to be glancing back and forth nervously, they were clearly ready for us. That last kobold had apparently done its job: the screaming and yelling about something called Irontooth had alerted its friends. And now it was going to be a lot harder for us to do OUR job.

I looked around at my companions. Sariel wore that same little smirk on her face and had her falchion gripped casually in both hands. Alassë was alternating between glancing nervously into the cavern and looking upward as she muttered prayers. Anca’s lips were parted in a wolfish grin, and he had a glitter in his yellow eyes that told me he was ready for blood. Lotheryn was calm and collected, working out in her mind the best way to survive this assault. I shared my thoughts with them.

“They know we're here, but they don’t realize what they’re in for,” I said, trying to sound encouraging. “We can handle them. Here’s my basic plan. I’m going to creep to the edge of the tunnel and take a quick shot or two at the big ugly one across from us. Anca, try to keep those little guys from overwhelming us. Alassë and Lotheryn, focus on taking down the big ones, but be careful for the minions. They’re quick and there are a lot of them. Sariel, you do whatever it is Gary Glitter tells you to do." (This brought an eye roll from the eladrin.) "I’ll be taking shots at anything that tries to get to close to us.” I hoped I sounded more confident than I felt. There were A LOT of kobolds in there. And we still had no idea what Irontooth was.

Everyone seemed comfortable with the plan, which was good, because I didn’t have a plan B. Heck, my plan A wasn’t even all that impressive. I inched forward to the edge of the shadows. The light inside the cavern was dim; several sputtering torches gave off the only illumination. I silently thanked my mother for my heritage, my half-elven eyes allowing me to see things much clearer than others could. I knelt down just at the edge of the tunnel, nocked two arrows to my bow, took aim at the nearest large kobold, the one that was staring right at me and snarling…

Uh oh.

With a shriek, it and the other creatures rushed towards us. I loosed the arrows, striking it with both, but without the careful aim I was hoping to take. He kept coming at me. With a howl, Anca leaped over my head and moved left, intercepting the kobold I had hit and keeping the onrushing minions at bay. In less than 10 seconds, he was completely surrounded. Sariel headed right, singling out another of the large kobolds as her target. Alassë moved past and was headed to the fray when I heard Lotheryn cry out.

“Anca, no!!!” she yelled. The druid’s face was wrenched in anguish as she watched the kobolds swarm onto Anca, prodding him with their spears. She begin to chant, calling on Nature’s power to save the shifter. Before she could complete her spell, Anca roared savagely and exploded up from out of the middle of the pile of kobolds, swinging his hammer mightily. When he stopped swinging, none of the kobolds surrounding him remained alive, and bodies of the creatures lay crumpled about him.

Unfortunately, kobolds are dumb animals, and while the display of fury made them hesitate, it didn’t stop them. Several more came to replace the dead. Alassë and Lotheryn went to help Anca, who had retreated several steps into a better defensive position. I looked over and saw Sariel trapped between the other two larger kobolds. I drew my flail and short sword and went to help her.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something odd. Where once there had been chaos in the back of the cavern, there was now none. All of the kobolds that had been scampering about had either joined the battle or had escaped into hidden tunnels somewhere.

Strange, I thought as I took a swing at one of the beasts with my flail. Where did those suckers get off to?

That thought was pushed out my head by the faint sound of ominous, rhythmic drumbeats emanating from somewhere deep in the cavern.

I didn’t really have time to consider this new development as the kobold in front of me narrowly missed my arm with a thrust of his spear. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t seem to get these guys off of Sariel, who was no longer smiling, I noticed. She was struggling to deal with her sworn foe, and she was bleeding from numerous places. This is what happened when you trusted a crazy gnome god to help you fight your battles.

“Is Garl playing a joke on YOU now?” I asked snidely as I watched a kobold parry her blow.

“Garl’s jokes are actually funny – not that you would know,” she shot back. It was pretty clear that the avenger wasn’t happy with the way things were going. But I had to admit, if we couldn’t finish these things off soon, there wouldn’t be anything funny about this at all.

The drumbeats grew louder. Boom. Boom. Boom.

I noticed the sound again as I drew blood with a jab of my short sword. I was still too busy to pay it much attention. At the same time, Anca, Lotheryn and Alassë finished off the kobolds they had been fighting, leaving Anca free to lend us a hand with the three that Sariel and I were grappling with: two of the bigger ones and a minion that kept jumping around and making a pest of himself. The shifter still had that “look” in his eye, and his snarling charge toward us distracted my foe enough that I got in a shot with my flail, knocking the kobold to its knees. I raised my weapon, ready to finish the job, when I realized that the drumbeats were loud enough to be reverberating in my ears. I glanced to my left and saw something emerge from the darkness at the back of the cavern.

Two extremely large kobolds stepped out, brandishing their spears and holding thick shields with the image of a dragon inlaid in the wood. Another much smaller kobold slunk behind them. Then out of their midst stomped a huge orc, a ram’s head tattooed on his face – the same ram’s head we had seen on the medallion. It was obviously a follower of Orcus, the god of undeath. It held a massive warhammer in both fists. This must be Irontooth.

“DEATH!” he shouted in his hideous language. It was certainly not the first time I had heard that word uttered in the orc tongue. The brute glared at us as he motioned his dragonshield warriors forward and followed close behind. The smaller kobold stayed in the shadows and began casting a spell.

My blood boiled. I KNEW I smelled something extra foul when I entered the cavern. I should have suspected there was orc-work behind this whole thing. It was all too organized for kobolds. And now I knew why.

The kobold in front of me breathed its last as I buried my sword in its chest. I quickly drew my bow. If it was death he wanted, he’d get it. Everything else left my mind as anger flooded hot through my veins. This orc may not have been responsible for the emptiness I felt in my heart, but he would pay for it anyway. Without a second thought, I loosed an arrow that struck the orc in the shoulder. That couldn’t feel good for the orc, although it gave me a grim pleasure.

The next few minutes were a blur. I noticed fire flare up around the dragonshield warriors, probably summoned by Lotheryn. Alassë got involved, swinging her morningstar at these new enemies. I had a vague sense that Sariel was badly wounded, and actually fell at one point, but none of that mattered as I loosed arrow after arrow at the orc. The kobold caster was raining fireballs on me, but I didn’t even turn in his direction. My fury consumed me until I noticed that Anca, who was occupying Irontooth’s attention, took a near lethal blow that knocked him unconscious. Seeing the shifter fall was the shock I needed to shake myself free of the enraged trance I had entered.

“Lotheryn!” I shouted to the druid. “Help Anca! I’ll distract the orc!” I put my bow away and took out my flail and short sword once again. Sariel was back on her feet and Alassë was praying for Torm’s favor as she fought. Lotheryn’s healing power enabled Anca to stand again. The druid tried to pull him away from the intensity of the battle, but he could not be drawn from the prospect of more blood. With Anca rejoining us, we had the orc surrounded.

Finally, the cleric found a gap in Irontooth’s defenses and slammed her weapon into the side of its skull. The orc fell, dead before it hit the ground. Lotheryn and I turned on the kobold caster, which looked around and realized that it was alone. The poor, stupid beast didn’t make it three steps before Lotheryn summoned a blast of cold to freeze it and I brought it down with a couple of well-placed arrows.

We were all too tired to say anything for a couple minutes afterwards. The battle had taken all of our strength. I looked at Lotheryn, who gave me a smile. Before I knew it, I was grinning. Then Sariel started giggling and, in our extreme exhaustion, we all joined her in a long laugh. It was good to be alive. Much better than the alternative, I thought as I looked at the piles of bloody kobold corpses.

We made a cursory search of the cavern. All of the other kobolds we had seen had escaped through a crack in the back of the cavern. Given that their leader was dead, I doubted they would be back. Sariel and I soon found the chamber that the orc had used as its living space. I hoped nothing else was planning to move in there any time soon. The best thing I could say about the place was that it smelled like the inside of a troll carcass. That’s the BEST thing I could say. The décor was…well, I won’t go into it. “Excretory” is the adjective that comes to mind.

We managed to withstand the stench long enough to unearth a sealed chest. I pulled it out of the chamber and Sariel went to work unlocking it. Without much trouble, she sprung the latch and opened the lid.

“Nice,” I said, as the avenger admired the dwarven-made chainmail she pulled out of the chest. “That gnomish education sure comes in handy sometimes, huh?”

“It has its uses,” she laughed. Just then we heard Lotheryn call out to us.

“Come, look. I have found a note in the orc’s pocket,” she said. She handed the crumpled, bloody piece of paper to me. The handwriting was sprawling and thin, and it was penned in the Common tongue. I read it aloud:

Irontooth,

My spy in Winterhave suggests we keep an eye out for visitors to the area. It probably does not matter; in just a few more days, I’ll completely open the rift. Then Winterhaven’t people will serve as food for all those Lord Orcus sends to do my bidding..

Kalarel


“Serve as food!?!?” Alassë exclaimed. “What kind of terrible person would do this?”

“The kind who knows the proper use of a semicolon. Pretty impressive,” I said. The cleric looked at me with horror. “Cmon, I’m just kidding.”

Sariel interjected, “Whoever this is, he’s been getting information from someone in Winterhaven. That’s who we need to find.”

Lotheryn caught my eye. She said what I was thinking, “Ninaran. I have never met an elf as disagreeable as he. If he is involved in some sort of evil, that would explain his actions toward us.”

“That’s where I would start,” I said in agreement. “But we’ll talk about our next move on the way back to town.”

As we left, I looked around one last time at the carnage. If I never saw this place again, it would be too soon.

6 comments:

Lotheryn said...

Like the title! :)

Taran said...

I had that dumb song stuck in my head for like an hour, so I'm glad it was worth it.

Moonglum said...

What seemingly innocent Winterhavener could be Kalarel's spy? The surly Elf, Ninaran? The seemingly sweet Delphina who is always out "collecting flowers"? Salvana Wrafton who knows all the towns comings and goings? Or maybe even your supposed friend and helper Valthrun? What evil could be lurking in that tower of his?

Moonglum said...

Nice story btw. The most sinister villains always have total mastery of both semicolons as well the difference between hyphens and dashes.

Taran said...

Once you start throwing gerunds and appositives in there, it's game over, man! GAME OVER!

Ieuan said...

Dan, that was the funniest thing ever... I made it my freaking Facebook status!! Pure genuis.