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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Box Deal - Part Two

Shrouded in the magic of the potions of mimicry, Boucher and Murook enter the Cult of the Dragon’s base located under the Orsraun Mountains with Aelar, his hands loosely bound behind him, playing the role of prisoner.  With surprising ease the three of them walk past the guards inside and proceed to the large, double stone doors directly across from the long entrance tunnel.  The two massive stone doors swing open with little effort and the three of them look into the main hall of the compound.  Many cultists are here busying themselves with their tasks.  Some wear the long flowing robes of priests or wizards and the trio decide not to venture too close to any of them, for it is widely known of magic users being able to see through illusions.

In the middle of this main hall is a ritual casting circle with runes of every description carved into the stone floor forming concentric rings around a central hub in the center.  Most of the cultists continue their work not bothering to look up at the curious threesome entering the hall.  One large man in a guard’s uniform spots them from the other side of the cavernous hall and starts to head toward them.  Boucher nudges Murook and then nods in the direction of the big man so that Murook follows his gaze and spots the danger coming.  Murook spots a door to the side of the hall and heads toward it.  To his great relief, it is unlocked and quickly the three move inside and close the door behind them.  This room is filled with stores of supplies carefully stacked in crates and barrels along the walls.  The only exit is some stairs that lead down into the floor at the back of the room.  Having no other means of escape they decide to head for the stairs and hope for the best.

“What in all the nine hells is going on?  Where are you taking that elf?”  The big man shouts as he pushes open the door to the storeroom.  Murook thought that he must have sprinted across the main hall to reach the room so quickly.  Boucher turned toward the large man in hopes of using the magic of the potions to help them get out of this mess.

“We’re just takin’ ‘im to….uh  be…uh”  Boucher stuttered when his dwarven dialect leaked out from his mouth in the sound of a scrawny human voice.

“We are takin’ the elf to be interrogated, sir!”  Murook snapped to attention and turned a scowl toward Boucher as if to scold him for addressing his superior that way.  The big man’s uniform had some different markings, Murook noticed, and from the way he carried himself he must be a leader of some sort.  Or at least that was Murook’s hope.

“We came in the storeroom to bring some candles with us as instructed, sir!”  Murook said when the big man did not offer a response.  “Hold the elf!”  He commanded Boucher and then reached over to gather up some of the candles he had seen when they first entered the room.

“See that you take more care with prisoners in the future guardsman.  Take the candles and get going.  Master Nabul never likes to be kept waiting.”  The big man said after what seemed like forever to the three companions.  He then backed out of the door and held his arm out toward the back of the main hall.

“Sir!”  Boucher and Murook snapped up in unison and then they marched Aelar out of the storeroom and turned in the direction the large man had indicated.  At least now they knew a direction to head in.

They walked quickly down the main hall, past all the robe clad cultists and past more of the guards who thankfully paid them no heed.  On their left they saw a spiral stair leading down in a room just off the main hall.  Murook took a long look into this room and noted that there were no guards at the top of these stairs.

“We’ve not the time.”  Boucher said with more than a little concern in evident in his voice.  Murook just stared back at him with a curious look on his face. 

“Can ya not feel it?  The magic ya derned, thick-headed orc, it’s fading.”  Boucher spat out the words in an excited whisper that was certainly louder than most people’s normal speaking voice.

“The doors, quickly.”  Murook said.  He had felt itchy, like his clothes did not fit him properly and it was growing worse by the second.  So this is what magic spells feel like, he thought.

Murook opened the doors at once and ushered the other two inside quickly and then closed to two massive doors behind him.  There was no way to bolt the doors from this side he noticed.  Boucher nudged him in the shoulder which brought his attention back to the room they had just entered.  There were six guards, four of them stood around a pit in the floor talking, the other two stood at the back of the room at each end of a row of five smaller doors with small barred windows set into each.

“Cell doors.”  Murook muttered quietly while nodding toward the back of the room at the five smaller doors. 

“Ready yourselves.”  Aelar  He looked at the false forms of his two friends waver like reflections in dappled pool for an instant and then disappear leaving a dwarf and a half orc standing beside him.  Aelar freed himself from his loose bonds and prepared for the battle to come.

Murook, who had noticed the uncomfortable feeling fade moments before, already had his axe in hand and stepped up to meet the first wave of attacks.  Boucher freed his mace from its hook on his belt and mentally reached out for the sun god’s grace and readied a spell.  The four guards standing near the pit in the middle of the room were first to the attack and all four moved toward the intruders each of the cultists drawing a particularly nasty looking sword as they advanced.  The two guards in the back each pulled out large two handed maces and started forward.

Six on three were long odds Murook knew.  He quickly glanced around the room for any kind of defensible position, but saw none.  The room was square and had no other doors besides the cell doors at the back, none that he could see anyway.  Yes, he could see the whole room clearly.  The many torches that ringed the room provided plenty of light for the cultists.  The HUMAN cultists, Murook thought as a wicked grin spread across his face.  He quickly reached into the small pouch on his belt, the one that contained his curious gem that allowed him to speak with demons, and pulled out another small trinket he obtained from within Fredregar’s lab.  One that he hoped would even the odds a bit.

The trinket was the skull of some sort of small animal that Murook could not possibly name, from a land that he did not know, but more than that, it was powerfully enchanted.  Fredregar had many interesting things in his lab and when Murook picked this item up and held it out before him it seemed to suck in light from around him.  A power that he now hoped would quench all the light within the room.  It was worth a shot, he thought to himself as he held the small skull out in front of him and concentrated on it as Boucher had taught him to do with magic items.  A word entered his mind almost immediately and he spoke it reflexively.

“Snuff!”  Murook yelled and immediately all the torches in the room went out blanketing the room in near total darkness.  Humans were much less at ease in the dark than half orcs or dwarves and besides he had trained extensively at blind fighting at the Academy.

“Aye we have ‘em now!  Derned humans can’t see a lick in the dark!”  Boucher said immediately grasping Murook’s plan to give them at least a fighting chance to stay alive.  In truth, Boucher being a worshipper of the sun god, was not at all as accustomed to the dark as most of his kin, but he was a dwarf and that was much better than being a human.

“Cover the door… we cannot let them reach it!”  Murook barked out as he fell within his training and moved forward into the darkness and into the fray.

Aelar fell back as the room went dark not knowing what had happened at first.  He quickly pieced together Murook’s plan and fell within his magic in search of a way to cope with this darkened battlefield.  Aelar’s thoughts floated through his spells and then to his innate ability to change his form nearly at will.   An idea soon entered his mind.  He knew of many animals with the ability to see in the dark, but he could only think of one that would be able to turn the tide of this battle.

Murook furiously swung his great axe at the shuffling steps and gasps of breath that he heard emanating from the darkness and more than a few times he connected with a crunch followed by a scream of pain.  While the cultists did not have his training or his orcish eyes they still managed to mount a stalwart defense against the rampaging half orc.  Boucher, not dealing with the darkness as well as he hoped, decided that his best course of action was to be ready to attack anything that managed to get passed the half orc and make a run for the door.  At least he would 
be able to get in the way, he thought.

A rumble from the back corner of the room startled the dwarf a few moments later and he turned toward the sound and raised his mace in front of him.  The rumble seemed to dissipate and move under him through the floor toward the howling mass of frantic cultists and furious half orc.

“Somthin’s in the floor!”  Boucher shouted as the rumble passed under his feet nearly knocking him to the floor.
Murook immediately felt the rumble beneath him and instinctively backed off readying himself for this new foe.  He had beaten the cultists back into the corner of the room where they huddled with their weapons pointing forward desperately trying to fend off the warrior while one of them worked to light a torch.  The flash of the flint striking against the metal blade of a sword lit the room like lightning on a dark stormy night.  One last flash and the torch sputtered to life just as the floor beneath the cultists erupted.

Aelar’s transformation into the form of the young bullette took longer than expected.  Bullette’s are voracious hunters that stalk the wide open plains of Faerun.  The beasts usually dig just underneath the top soil and patiently wait for their prey to saunter by.  Most people refer to them as ‘land sharks’ and, in truth, that name is an apt description.  The muzzle of the bullette is pointed and their mouths are lined with dagger like teeth much like that of a large shark.  The main reason Aelar chose this particular animal was for their ability to see vibrations given off by living beings on the surface.

The stone floor was a bit more difficult to dig through but Aelar’s new claws still managed to get him under the guardsmen easily enough.  He wasted no time attacking for he didn’t know how Murook was fairing in the darkness against six foes.  He knew Murook was bigger than the human guards in the room and as soon as he had distinguished the half orc’s heavier footfalls from the smaller humans he moved in.  The bullette, Aelar burst forth from the stone floor under the crowd of human guards and clamped his mighty jaws down on the legs of one of the unfortunate humans.  The carnage was complete.  The other guards dropped the lit torch and scrambled away from the beast right into the waiting mace of Boucher De Cheval and into Murook’s huge frost axe.  After Aelar’s attack the human guards were scattered and dispatched easily.

Murook looked to Boucher and both turned their gaze on the bullette just as it was reforming back into the lithe elf from which it had sprung.  The both of them relaxed their posture then and each blew a great sigh of relief now that it was confirmed that this hellish beast was in fact the result of the shape changing ability of the druid. 

There in the flickering light of the single torch that lay on the ground, the three of them paused for only a few moments before the realization flooded back into them of where they were and what they were doing.  All three turned at once to the large double stone doors they had entered the room by as a loud crash sounded from outside in the main hall.  This room had no exit and if they were trapped in here it would mean their deaths.

“I’ll be checkin’ these cells.”  Boucher said as he moved toward the dead guards checking for a key of some sort to the five cells that lined the back of the wall.

“Be quick.  We’ll have to use Traveler to escape if we’re discovered.”  Murook said to them both.  He moved to the large, stone doors and managed to crack them open to try and see what the commotion was about.

Through the crack in the doors he saw a cyclops with its huge club storm into the main hall from the far end.  The thing roared and stomped around the ritual circle in the first part of the great hall scattering cultists every which way.  Aelar heard the roar and rushed up to peer through the door with Murook at the spectacle.

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