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Dragon Armor- FR fanfic

Discussion in 'Creativity Surge' started by Lord Garak, Sep 2, 2005.

  1. Lord Garak Gems: 7/31
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    Some of you might have read the first three chapters since I've posted this story before but I had no net for a few months and the thread dissapeared. Oh, well. Just so you know, this story contains the following: humor, war(later on), lot's of action scenes, love (sort of) and a powefull bad guy. This is the tipe of story I would call a Dark Story (It's dark after chapter 7). So here's chapter 1.

    Dragon Armor

    I opened my eyes and groaned. Another boring day, I thought. I got out of the bed and went to wash myself. After I finished I took my dagger and started shaving. Yes I know using a dagger is not very safe but I had nothing else. At least I didn’t cut myself, I already had a few scars. One running from my left eye toward my scalp, one crossing my stomach, two on the left arm and one on my right leg. Well, I guess that is part of the danger of being a mercenary. Could be worse. For example, just two days ago we ran into some goblins and poor Jarvell lost his life. He took an arrow right in the throat. Goblins might be annoying but they are good with a bow. Anyway after I finished shaving and got dressed I went down. The inn we were staying at was pretty good and the food wasn’t bad. I found the rest of the mercenaries outside. They were getting ready to leave. Now that was weird, since we were supposed to stay at this inn for another four days. Unless Kaimar decided we had better things to do except waiting for some mage. I went over toward Barlok to find out why we were going.

    “So what’s happening?” I asked.

    “We are leaving.” said Barlok.

    I shook my head, like usual Barlok stated the obvious without expanding the sentence. But in his defense I do have to point out the fact that half-orcs were never very bright. Barlok is no exception, he’s very strong and good in a fight but he’s also a bit stupid.

    “I noticed we’re leaving” I said with a patient voice “but were are we going and why?”

    Barlok looked at me as if I grew horns, then he smiled and said.

    “Boss take us to Westgate. He said lots of coin there.”

    I thought about that for a minute. Westgate was still a few days travel from here and our supplies were almost gone, but there are a couple of villages on the way. But what kind of work did Kaimar think he would find in Westgate I have no idea. Whatever, it wasn’t my job to question our leaders decisions. I patted Barlok on the shoulder and went to get my horse.

    An hour later we left the inn and headed toward Westgate. To bad we wouldn’t get there.

    Why?

    Because we were ambushed, that’s why.

    We were going through Galthmere wood when it happened. Kaimar was leading us like usual when we heard a strange noise. Next thing we knew a huge boulder landed right on Kaimar and our brave leader was turned into a puddle of blood, bones and clothes, along with his horse. Then out of nowhere came a rain of arrows and six more fell dead.

    “Form up!” I shouted at the surviving men.

    They did as they were told but before we could form up we were attacked by orcs. Where in the Nine Hells did they come from? And behind them came a hill giant bearing a huge tree. The orcs were almost upon us when the giant used the tree like a broom against us. Scattered as we were, we had no chance.

    “Run!!” shouted someone.

    Before I could run two orcs attacked me. Both had huge war axes, which was good for me. I slipped under their strokes and gutted one of them with my longsword. The orc fell screaming but I didn’t really care. I just turned and lunged at the second. My blade went through his leather shirt and right in his heart. I took out my blade and looked around. The orcs were butchering the rest of the men. I looked for Barlok but I couldn’t see him. Having done all I could, which wasn’t much, I ran deeper into the wood. As I kept running an arrow flew past my head, followed by a second and then a third. Apparently the orcs noticed me when I ran. How I hate running from a fight, but that does not mean I’ve got a death wish. Soon I could hear howling and footsteps behind me. I looked behind and saw four orcs with scimitars and two goblin archers.

    Then I tripped on a root.

    As I hit the ground my sword flew from my hand. I scrambled after it when I heard a sound from behind me. I looked and saw an orc with a scimitar raised over his head, ready to spill my brains all over the place. Without thinking I shoved my heel in his groin. The orc fell to his knees and dropped the scimitar. As the orc realized his mistake I picked up the scimitar and cut his head. The decapitated body fell to the ground leaking a lot of blood. I looked for my longsword and found it lying in a puddle of orc blood. I took it in my right hand and I got ready for some more killing. The orc I killed was probably some sort of lookout who was supposed to kill anyone escaping the massacre. Too bad he ran into me.

    I didn’t have long to wait before the orcs reached me. I ducked under the first one’s swing and gutted him with the longsword. As I came up I brought my scimitar up and blocked a stroke that would have been the end of me. I then used the longsword to parry another swing and I shot out with my right foot hitting the third orc right in the jaw. He fell to ground and didn’t move. I then swung the longsword toward the second orc. He didn’t notice the blade and paid for it. I took of a quarter of his head and spilled his brains on the forest floor. I ducked and raised the longsword over my head while swinging the scimitar. As I expected the longsword stopped the orc’s blow and my scimitar cut right through his legs. The orc fell screaming and I got up. While looking around for the goblins I reversed my grip on the longsword and stabbed down right into the orcs eye. The sword went through his eye into the brain, killing him instantly. I took out the sword and went to search for the goblins.

    I took five steps away from the dead orcs went the two goblins came charging from behind a tree. They had dropped their bows and were using curved daggers big enough to be swords, for them I mean. I used the long sword to block both their attacks and with the scimitar I cut down the first goblin. The second one took a step back but before he could do anything I lunged forward and impaled him on my scimitar. The scimitars tip came out of the goblins back. He was dead all right. I dropped the scimitar and turned away.

    And the ground disappeared from beneath my feet.

    I guess it was a trap door of some sort, not that it matters anymore. I found myself sliding down a tunnel that did not seem to have an end. I was proven wrong a few seconds later as I came out of it. I fell on a pile of old rags that released what looked like a thousand years worth of dust. I didn’t much notice the dust since I felt as if a dragon spit me out of his mouth, but without all the drool. After a while I got tired of sitting in the dark so I got up. I had no idea were I was, and I couldn’t see anything, so I started to walk around randomly. I must have run into a wall at least five times. Then my foot hit something metallic. I reached for it, very hard when it’s completely dark around you, and as I grabbed it I realized it’s a torch.

    “Great, now all I need is something to light it with.” I said out loud.

    Maybe I should have kept quiet, for all the good that would have done. Because just then all the torches in the room suddenly lit up and the room was flooded with light. It hurt my eyes since I was used to the darkness down there. But when I could see again I saw something that was not good. I was in a very big room filled with all sorts of things but the five figures in the middle of the room had all my attention. One of them was a lich and the other four looked like starved kobolds. What they were doing here I could not guess but then where exactly was here? I was just starting to wonder why I didn’t hear the kobolds, noisy little creatures, when I noticed that they were in a trance. The lich was controlling the four kobolds. Without a word from the lich the four kobolds charged toward me. The crude spears they had didn’t look very useful against an armed opponent but I had no weapons since my longsword was lost somewhere in this room. So I improvised.
    When the first kobold was about to impale me, I got out of his way and bashed his head with the torch. He fell without any noise. The other three had stopped but I didn’t waist any time. I picked up the spear and threw it at the second kobold. He dropped to the ground with a spear sticking out of his forehead and his brains running down his face. Just as the other two started to come toward me I looked to my right and saw a table cluttered with bottles. I ran toward it and I swept the bottles from the table. Then I picked up the table and turned toward the kobolds. Just in time since the two were very close. I broke the table and their skulls at the same time. Then I turned toward the lich. He just stared at me, though I think he was just getting ready to cast some spell on me. I never found out.

    The door behind the lich burst apart in a thousand pieces that rained all over the room and a mighty bronze dragon entered the room. Before the lich could do anything the dragon’s mouth opened and fire came out. The lich was turned into a burning torch but he just stood there while the flames consumed him. The dragon then stared at me. Before I could do anything he turned and said.

    “Follow me.”

    What could I do? I followed him into a room so big I couldn’t see the ceiling or the other end. In the middle of the room I noticed an altar. And upon it two sets of armor. The dragon went toward it and stopped there. I stopped next to him thinking, It’s a bronze dragon, their usually good dragons, they don’t harm someone without reason. And so on.

    “What were you doing there, human?”

    “I fell through a trap door of some sort.”

    “So that’s how the lich got in. I’m surprised you didn’t see it.”

    “It was covered with leaves and branches and things. Besides I was being chased by orcs!”

    “Orcs?” He didn’t sound very surprised.

    “Yes, orcs! They ambushed me and the rest of the mercenaries I was with. I was lucky to escape, only to find a lich with four kobold servants.”

    The dragon looked at me patiently. Then he said.

    “Calm down young man. I know you are angry but now is not the time for this. The orcs and the lich work for someone else. They came here for something.”

    Orcs, goblins, kobolds, hill giants and a lich, that’s when I realized something weird was going on.

    “Who are they working for… O mighty dragon?” I added as an afterthought.

    “Spare me the flattery. You can talk freely to me. But before I answer your question I must know your name.”

    A dragon you don’t have to flatter, now there’s something.

    “My name is Hirad Stoneheart.”

    “Stoneheart. Is that your name, Stone heart, or was it given to you by the mercenaries?”

    “It’s my name.”

    “Very well, Stoneheart.”

    “Could you please call me Hirad?” I asked “No one calls me Stoneheart.”

    “Very well… Hirad. But know this. The name Stoneheart will be known across Faerun, if you decide to help me. Look at the armor on the altar.”

    I did as he said and looked at the armor. And my jaw fell. Both sets were identical. The armor was a full plate, completely black except for the elfish decorations, which were red. I picked up a gauntlet from one set. Nothing special about it, except its beauty. I put it down and picked up a gauntlet from the other set. The gauntlet was supposed to be heavy but was as light as a leather shirt. Seeing the expression on my face the dragon said.

    “The first gauntlet you took is a replica of the original. But the original… Well it’s made from dragon scales. Not the scales from one species but from all of them. The outer layer is made of black dragon scales combined with some red dragon scales. I will not tell you how the other layers are made because you don’t need to know.”

    “You said my name would be known across Faerun if I helped you. What do you mean?”

    “Should you decide to help me you would first have to join my order. It’s an ancient order whose name you have never heard and is better you never know. The order was always dedicated to stopping evil and preserving the lives of those who deserve to live.

    The order always had two followers. A dragon and his warrior. The dragon stayed here while the warrior went across Faerun to end evil until his time came to die. If the warrior died away from here the dragon would use a special spell to summon the armor back or if he could, he would try to summon back the warriors spirit. The order’s last warrior died a thousand years ago and I could not summon his spirit, nor could I find someone worthy of his place. But you have the potential. All you have to do is say you want to join me and I shall tell you the rest. If you refuse… you may leave but you may also doom many to their death. Do as you will.”

    Without hesitation I said.

    “I’ll join you.”

    Two days later I left the hideout. I was wearing the armors replica because I was to wear the real one only if I would really need it’s protection and strength. For example, if I ever found myself in the Nine Hells. But for now all I was thinking of were the dragons last words before I left.

    “Go into the world and fight evil. You shall not be alone. You will search for those who will help you, those who will also need you. Together nothing will stop you. But remember these words: If you come face to face with a man of darkness, whose hatred burns brighter than the sun, your end will come.”

    [ September 05, 2005, 19:33: Message edited by: Lord Garak ]
     
  2. Kelvon Shadowmane Gems: 12/31
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    Yes, I've read this... on REAL paper! Get to chapter 7 allready!
     
  3. Lord Garak Gems: 7/31
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    @ Kelvon Be patient pls. Anyway what would this story be if Hirad was alone, so now he'll gather a party.


    Band of Mercenaries


    I’m so glad that the dragon gave me some money as well. Actually he gave me twenty thousand gold pieces, very queer considering that dragons are very protective of their treasures. Anyway all that money proved to be useful since I walked to the nearest village ,Starmantle, and bought a horse. And not just any horse, I found a mercenary who was desperate for money and I gave him two thousand gold pieces for his warhorse and the military saddle.

    After that I decided to go to Westgate. The journey there was not a quick one since I was starting to wonder if the dragon was a prophet or something.

    Two days after leaving the village I stopped when I heard what sounded like a lot of globins arguing amongst themselves. I tied the horse to a tree and went to investigate. I was right of course, in the middle of a little clearing I saw ten goblins bickering for a small piece of meat. I swear I’ll never understand goblins, they can be a danger when in large numbers but they are as dim as a demon is evil. I was just about to attack them when I noticed movement in the bushes, on the other side of the clearing. I circled the goblin camp and headed toward the place I saw the movement come from.

    I almost burst out in laughter but I controlled myself. There right in front of me had to be either the dumbest or the drunkest ranger ever to walk the earth. I say that because he didn’t notice me when I approached, he moved enough that I noticed him and the expression on his face suggested that he tried to beat a dwarf in a drinking contest. He also needed a bath, a hair cut, new clothes and Silvanus knew what else. His clothes were so dirty and full of holes that not even a zombie would be caught dead wearing them. The hazards of being a ranger I suppose, I always liked rangers but the few I actually met were, if not better dressed, at least clean. His hair was so long I suspected that he didn’t leave the woods for at least four months. The simple thought of living in the woods for that long a period sends shivers up my spine. As for the smell. He either didn’t wash all the time he spent in the woods or he killed a troll and forgot to wash. I really hoped it was second variant.
    It was a wonder the goblins didn’t smell his presence, then again they don’t smell very nice either. I took two more steps when the ranger turned toward me and put his fingers to his lips in a gesture that could only mean Quiet . I shrugged and moved next to him in the bushes. He turned toward me again..

    “What are you doing here?” He said in a voice so low I could barely hear him.

    “Wanted to see if I could help.” I whispered back.

    He just stared at me for a while then asked me if I had some arrows to give him. I told him I had a few and he smiled wickedly, showing white teeth that contrasted with all the mud on his face. We circled back to where I left the horse and when I thought the goblins couldn’t hear me anymore I asked.

    “What in the name of Tempus is with that smell?”

    “I wounded a troll recently” he said” and the dam thing sprayed everything around it with blood. Including me.”

    I almost laughed again but instead I searched through the backpack for those arrows the dragon gave me. Come to think of it that dragon gave me a lot of stuff. When I found the arrows I gave them to him, along with the bow.

    “Thanks for the gear my good man. Is there any way I could repay you. After I kill those goblins of course.”

    I looked at him and wondered how he could help me. Then I remembered what the dragon said.

    “Well if you want to help me I do have an offer to make. If you’re interested meet me at the entrance to Westgate in three weeks.”

    “I’ll think about it. Though it would help if I knew what you were offering.”

    I gave him one off my famous smiles, the ones that make me look like some malefic wizard bent on conquering the world. He quickly turned and left. This time I did laugh.

    A few hours after I left the ranger to his work I decided to stop and eat something. I left the horse to graze while I prepared some of the meat I found in the backpack. I had to spend a lot of time cutting it because the two chunks were about the size of my head. After that I left the meat to be cooked while I went to a nearby tree to get a plate. I used my dagger to cut of some of the bark and then I went back to my camp fire. The plate was a bit cold since the dagger I had was enchanted with a cold spell. It wasn’t named Frozen Death for nothing. Still the meat was good and I managed to enjoy my meal. After that I continued to head to Westgate.

    On the way there I had to cross some mountains. While crossing them I came upon a devastated temple of Mystra. I was so surprised to see it that at first I didn’t notice the elf kneeling before the temple. When I did notice him I thought he was praying, only when I heard the sounds coming from him did I realize he was crying. I got off my horse and went next to him. As I got closer I noticed the symbol on his chainmail, a circle of seven blue white stars. The elf was probably a paladin of Mystra, which would explain why he was crying in front of a destroyed temple. I knelt beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. He looked at me, his face a mask of grief and despair. Tears were streaming from his blue eyes and down his fair elven face.

    “Who are you?” He asked with a croaking voice.

    He must have shouted a lot of curses before he began crying.

    “I’m a friend” I said” I just want to see if I can help you.”

    “No, no one can help me.” After which he remained silent for some time. I didn’t leave because I knew he might try to kill himself. I saw men do that when confronted with the loss of their family or homes. In those cases the grief is simply too much and they kill themselves rather than continue living. That or they go mad and still end up dead. I stood there for and hour when suddenly the elf raised his arms and cried.

    “How can such evil exist? How can he commit such an atrocity and go unpunished?”

    Then he looked at me and he told me happened. Apparently a traveler came at the temple and asked for food and a place to sleep for the night. The monks, clerics and paladins welcomed him with open arms and gave him food and a bed. The next morning before leaving the traveler said he wanted to thank the monks for their hospitality. But instead of thanking them he killed them. He uttered some words and five fireballs came out each hand and each fireball went straight for one of the monks. Those that tried to hide behind something found that the fireballs could pass through objects like ghosts, just to reach their target and kill him. All that was left of the monks were a few carbonized corpses. When the clerics and paladins tried to stop the traveler, he took the sword he had and attacked with such speed and ferocity that the twenty clerics and paladins were retreating before him. No one could stop him since he moved to fast and his attacks were made with deadly precision. When only a few paladins were still alive the traveler quickly ran outside and casted the fireballs again. This time they did not go through the temple but exploded with tremendous force upon contact with the building. The temple could not resist and collapsed. And the traveler left just as mysteriously as he arrived, leaving nothing but death and destruction in his wake. It was truly a miracle that the elf had survived.

    After thinking about the matter I decided to continue my travel toward Westgate. But first I told the elf that if he wanted to stop such evil he should meet me in Westgate. He agreed and continued to stare at the ruble which had been his temple. I truly felt sorry for the elf but unless he decided to accept that in this world there would always be such evil I could do nothing for him.

    I think the dragon really was a prophet when he said I’ll find others willing to help me in this eternal battle between good and evil.

    Just as I was leaving the mountains I heard the sounds of battle. Without pausing to think I headed toward the sounds. Leave it to me to run into the middle of a mage fight. Three red robed mages were bombarding with spells another mage which was hooded and was wearing some brown robes that completely hid him, he was also wearing gloves. And he was in desperate need of aid. While it is true that I didn’t know what this conflict was about I didn’t hesitate to rush in and help the lone mage. Like usual my instinct was right. I took my bastard sword in my right hand and I charged in, coming right in front of the three mages. They were so shocked when they saw me that they completely forgot what they were doing. I really wasn’t going to kill them but all they saw was a man in a black full plate armor, with red elfish decorations, with a bastard sword in hand, and riding a black horse, charging toward them with all the speed and fury of a Nightmare. Out of reflex or fear they began casting Finger of Death. I was no fool and I ran down the first mage, the horses hooves crushing his skull and spilling his brains all over the place. The second mage only had time to see my blade heading toward him. After that his head was rolling across the ground, a expression of disbelief upon his face. The third mage stopped casting and just looked down to see the tip of my sword emerging from his chest. I wonder what hurt the most, the wound itself or the acid that was always dripping from my blade. Anyway he looked at the wound once and then he fell. I think the poor guy had a heart attack or something.

    I turned to the mage I just saved, all the while hoping that I didn’t kill the wrong people. The mage approached and looked down at the three corpses. When his shoulders began to shake I realized he was laughing. But no sound was emerging from his mouth. That’s when I suspected that someone had cast Silence. To be honest that wasn’t my problem. I quickly told the mage about an interesting offer I had and he just shook his head, he said yes. Glad that I accomplished something I left the mage to rob the three corpses of whatever they had.

    Three weeks later I was going toward Westgate’s main gate when I heard a lot of shouting, cursing and tables breaking. I went inside the inn and looked at the mess. Broken tables, chairs and kegs of ale everywhere, spilled ale covering the floor and giving the inn an unpleasant smell and in the middle of it all was a dwarf and a small human. The dwarf was obviously angry and it was easy to figure out at who. The human looked a little afraid but he also looked like he was nuts. It was the first time that I saw a human face manage to resemble the stupid joy I saw on goblin faces. That or he was the best simpleton ever. Since a crowd was gathering I quickly went between the two and stopped the dwarfs attempt to brake the humans neck.

    “Get out of me way!” shouted the dwarf.

    “Don’t hurt me, I was only having fun.” Replied the human.

    “I don’t care what you were doing or why!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. “Now both of you sit down before I break your necks!” I continued to shout.

    I think they decided I was truly serious because they both sat down, on broken chairs.

    “Now what in the Nine Hells is going on here?” I asked.

    “ That little sneak tried to steel the kegs of ale in this inn.”

    “I was going to bring them back.”

    “No you weren’t. You could barely carry out one keg. And you even dropped that one!!!”

    “It wasn’t my fault. I tripped on that cat sleeping by the door.”

    “Liar! You did it on purpose! You wanted to leave me without any ale. You miserable thief!”

    They kept at it until I was bored to death. Finally they shut up when the innkeeper arrived. He was hiding down in the basement but that’s beyond the point he wanted to make. What that was will be one of the unresolved mysteries of this world Of course the innkeeper started to shout some more. And then the dwarf and the thief started to shout. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took out five thousand gold pieces and stuffed them in the innkeepers pocket. When he didn’t notice them I took off one of my gauntlets and hit him in the mouth so hard you could the way his jaw broke. I then turned toward the dwarf and the thief and told them to follow me. They silently complied.

    When I reached the main gate I saw the elven paladin and the dirty ranger but I couldn’t see the mage. The only other person was a beautiful redhead, with a long graceful neck and the most captivating eyes I ever saw. It took me about a minute to recognize the robes she was wearing. The mage I rescued was no he, he was a she. Like I said my instinct was right. I was always a sucker for beautiful women, even if none of them cared. I was hoping that I wouldn’t get any ugly wounds because of her. The scar on my stomach, well I took that one so that a young woman could live. I almost traded my life for hers that day but thankfully there was a cleric nearby.

    As I looked at the elf, the redhead, the dwarf, the thief and the ranger I knew I had found those that would help me in my battle against evil. I could feel it. Together we were unstoppable.
     
  4. Kelvon Shadowmane Gems: 12/31
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    @everyone xept Garak
    kewl... Even though you'll think I'm abberating :) , I shall say that I really AM the Ranger in Dragon Armor :) , and my name really is Harry :) . And this time I didn't have to much :beer: Ask Lordy Garaky if thou doest not believeth me.
     
  5. Lord Garak Gems: 7/31
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    Well, here's chapter 3, full of devils and stuff. Also, things get more complicated for Hirad.


    Go to Hell


    The next month was a bit weird as we were trying to get used to working with each other. Cristi, our rogue, proved to be the worst rogue in Faerun. He either couldn’t disarm traps or he couldn’t find them. So me and the dwarf, Stoneater, kept running into all sort of traps.

    Then there was Harry, the ranger, who refused to fight if he didn’t have any arrows. So that meant that me, the dwarf and the elf were doing all the close combat, since Cristi was a coward when a sword was drawn.

    As for Andreea, the mage, well … I had a bad feeling that because of her I would get into a lot of trouble.

    Still everything was going pretty well for us until we accepted a job to clear out a tomb that was infested with ghouls. We were waiting for Cristi to pick the lock so that we could go inside when we heard Cristi say something obscene about Mask. We quickly turned toward him only to see a portal open right in front of him and suck him in. After which we heard a voice that could only be described as demonic. What that voice said I’ll never know since Andreea refused to tell us. She only said that the portal led into the Nine Hells of Baator. After that statement we just stood there looking at one another.

    “ Well?” asked Andreea.

    “Well what?” said Stoneater.

    “Are we going after him or not?”

    None of us said anything because while going after him was the right thing to do, going into the Nine Hells was not so easy. After a while I asked Andreea.

    “Can you get us into the Hells?”

    She thought about it and then said.

    “I’ll need the spell to open a portal into the Hells.” Before I could ask anything else she said. “I know were to get a scroll with the spell.”

    So we went back to the inn we were staying at and Andreea told us were we could find the scroll. It was in the tower of a wizard, somewhere south of Westgate. As it turned out the tower belonged to the wizard who sent those three mages to kill Andreea.

    We decided to use Andreea’s meld spell on some arrows. When the arrows would hit the tower they would meld with it leaving only the rope tied to them. The rope’s end would become one with the wall so we could use it to climb up the tower. When Andreea suggested she go alone I protested.

    “I can take care of myself you know” she said” and besides I know the area.”

    “Yes, but who’ll watch your back while you search for the scroll?”

    “I can manage. Besides how do you plan to climb a wall wearing a full plate?”

    “I’ll go without the armor. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

    She looked at me with some amusement and asked.

    “What are you afraid of?”

    It took me a few seconds to respond.

    “Nothing. Why?” I lied of course.

    “Just asking.” she said “ Very well you can come along if you wish.”

    Two days later I was watching Harry shoot two arrows toward the lonely tower. After we made sure the meld was good Andreea and me started climbing. I can’t understand how she could climb with that robe on. Anyway I was happy the rope held, falling down was not something I looked forward to. When we reached the seventh floor we stopped.

    “This is the floor we want.” She said.

    I looked at the bared window and couldn’t imagine a way in. Then Andreea smiled , and what a beautiful smile it was, and stated to squeeze in. She had to bend her body in some odd angles to get in but she managed. Meanwhile all I could do was stare at her. When she was inside she turned toward me and said.

    “You wait for me here.” Then she was gone.

    I was determined to get in that tower so I continued to climb. After passing two more bared windows I came to a normal one. Without trying to be quiet or stealthy I just opened the window and went inside. I found myself in a long corridor. It had a lot of doors on both sides and what looked like a T junction at the end. I decided to go to the right and see where that lead. After a while I came to the end of the corridor. There where six doors there but only one was locked. I decided to see what was in that one so I took out my bastard sword and went next to the door. Since the blade had an acid enchantment on it, it kept dripping acid. I kept the blade above the lock until the acid managed to burn through it. The lock fell to the ground making a lot of noise. Thankfully no one was around so I opened the door and entered the dark room.

    I looked for a candle and after a while I found one. After I managed to light it I looked around the room. It was sparsely furnished. It only had a bed, a nightstand and a chest. I also noticed a book on the nightstand so I went to check it out first. After setting the candle on the nightstand I picked up the book. It appeared to be a journal of some kind. I read the last entry:

    “I have returned from the quest Kazar has sent me on, only to find I was betrayed. My own master has betrayed me. When I came back he told me that Andreea had run away.”

    I stopped for a moment. Could this be the same Andreea that travels with us? My curiosity was stronger than my desire to find her right then so I continued reading.

    “I can’t believe she would run away without leaving me a message. She knows how much I care about her.
    And I was right. Only a few hours ago I was told what had happened. The…. person, who told me could not be fully trusted. But I don’t care. I still don’t know why she left but she had to have a good reason. Not that it matters. I found out Kazar had sent three of his best students to kill her. While I think she is a very good mage, I don’t think she can beat the three killers.
    Well…. Kazar has managed to get rid off his best student. I swear I shall have his head on a spike for what he did. And if I ever find those three mages, I will turn them inside out. I will do as I was advised. Revenge will be sweet.”

    I put the book down and just stared at it. Kazar, in whose tower we happened to be at that very moment, wanted to kill Andreea. What could she have done that her own master wanted her dead? Well I didn’t have time to wonder about that so I took off the backpack I was wearing and I put the book in it. After I got my sword in my right hand and made sure my backpack was strapped securely to my back I headed toward the door. But before I could get to it the door started opening.

    I immediately took a fighting position, left foot in front, with all my weight on my right foot and both hands on the sword’s hilt, keeping it’s pommel close to my thigh and the tip pointed toward the door. As the door opened fully I was ready to close in quickly and disembowel whoever was coming in. But before I could attack I recognized Andreea. She looked surprised to see me and I quickly relaxed. Then she looked at a point behind me and said something confusing.

    “Drako! Don’t!”

    “Andreea?” said a rough whispering voice in my head. Before I could figure out what was happening something small but hard came from behind me and clipped the side of my head. I managed to roll with the blow. I hit the ground shoulder first, continued to roll and quickly came back on my feet. At first all I saw was something small with scales landing on Andreea’s chest. I was getting ready to cut the thing in two when Andreea said to me.

    “Hirad put down your sword. It’s ok.”

    I was a bit confused about what just happened but I trusted her. That’s when I took the time to look at the creature she was holding in her arms. It looked like a miniature red dragon but without the arrogant look in it’s eyes. Then I remembered that the two monks who raised me had showed me the drawing of such a creature. It was a pseudodragon.

    “Hirad I thought I told you to wait for me. What are you doing here?”

    “I decided you still might need some help so I found a way in.” She looked at me as if I was supposed to say something else. “And then I got lost” I finished lamely.

    “And almost got killed by Drako.” Did I detect a note of concern in her voice?

    “I didn’t notice anything when I came in. Where was he and who is he exactly?”

    I was expecting Andreea to answer me but I heard that voice in my head again.

    “Drako was hiding near the ceiling. You did not look there… Hirad. Drako belong to Garak.” Then I could swear the voice in my head became sad. “But Garak is gone and Drako is lonely.” The little pseudodragon looked at Andreea and I could actually see some hope appear in his reptilian eyes. I was expecting to hear his voice again but I didn’t. Instead Andreea nodded and said.

    “Yes, you can remain with me Drako.” That’s when I realized that Drako could communicate either with all of us or just one person. The advantages of communicating telepathically I suppose. Hmm, maybe I should have paid more attention to Galiveth’s lessons.

    “So, what are you doing here?” I asked Andreea.

    “Besides saving your neck?”

    “Oh … yeah. Thanks.” Boy did I feel like an ass.

    “Any time.” She said. “ To answer your question I came here to get Drako. And see a … friend. But I guess he left.” As she finished her sentence I noticed a sadness in her voice. For some reason that saddened me as well.

    “We should probably get going.” I said. I wanted something to distract me because when I feel sad I tend to get depressed very quickly. And I needed that about as much as I needed a ghoul chewing my leg.

    While we were heading to Kazar’s lab, Drako started flying around us and was saying something to Andreea. I could tell because she was smiling and that somehow made me want to smile. But I suppressed the urge because something was different and I didn’t know what. After a while Drako gently landed on my shoulder.

    “Drako wonders who might you be, Hirad?”

    I looked to Andreea but she didn’t seem to hear anything so I decided to try something. I’m the one who killed the three mages sent to assassinate Andreea. I’m a friend. I said in my mind.

    “ Drako belive you. Also Drako saw you take Garak’s journal. Drako did not tell this to Andreea but Drako wants to know why you took the journal?”

    I took it because I thought it might interest Andreea. I half lied. Truth be told I wasn’t very sure why I took the journal. Drako, where Andreea and Garak close?

    “Yes they were close.” Said Drako’s voice in my head. Again I began to feel a bit sad. “But Drako did not tell Andreea that Garak changed.”

    What do you mean?

    “After hearing that Andreea left, Garak became bitter. He talked to someone. Drako not know who. But three days after coming from quest, Garak left again. He seemed very angry. Drako wory for Garak.”

    I’m sure he’ll be alright.

    “ Drako not think so. Garak’s anger was great. Drako worries Garak might do something foolish.”

    I had nothing to say about that so we continued our journey in silence. Eventually we came to Kazar’s lab. Of course it was locked but Andreea used a spell to turn the lock into water. I hoped Kazar likes to mop the floor. Once inside Andreea quickly found the scroll she needed and we went back out the way we came in. What bothered me about the whole thing is that the tower seemed devoid of any life. When I asked Drako about it he said he had no idea what might have happened.

    Six hours later I had finished donning the Dragon Armor. The real one, not the replica. It felt weird wearing it, it was very light and even though I had expected it to be cold to the touch, it was in fact warm. At least the inside of the armor was warm, the outside was as cold as ice. That was when I found out why the dragon told me not to wear anything else under the armor, I would have managed to cook myself. The armor also made me feel stronger, healthier, faster, heck I even thought I could see better, as if I had a hawks eyes. When Drako first saw me he said.

    “Hirad now look like wingless dragon.”

    Stoneater just laughed and Elf snorted. I think he was still angry at me for an incident that happened as we where leaving Kazar’s tower. Elf was annoyed that I couldn’t pronounce his name so he wrote it on a piece of paper My pronunciation was so terrible that he just threw away the paper in disgust and refused to talk to me. Meanwhile Stoneater, Andreea and Drako couldn’t stop laughing.

    Well that doesn’t matter. I looked at my companions and asked.

    “Ready?”

    They looked at me and nodded. I could see the determination on their faces, we would either return with Cristi or not at all. I looked at Andreea and nodded. She read the scroll and when she was done the air in front of me started to burn. A fiery line formed itself and then it started to tear open. Like a drop of water on the floor it widened until it was big enough that someone could pass through it. Its edges were wreathed in flame like a frame and in the middle I could see a barren land raked by fierce winds and in the distance a huge fortress. Taking a deep breath to calm myself I entered the portal before the others. I willingly went to Hell.



    “It’s as hot as hell here” said Stoneater.

    “Of course, this is Hell after all.” replied Elf.

    “I know that but what I want to know is why does it have to be so bloody hot down here?” Stoneater had been complaining about the heat ever since we entered the Nine Hells. Not that Elf, Andreea and Harry didn’t feel the heat, they just didn’t say anything about it. As for Drako and me, well … Drako didn’t mind the heat and I couldn’t feel it at all. I felt only a little warm but that was it. I think the Dragon Armor was the reason. Not that I mind.

    “That does it” said Stoneater “ we’ve been walking for hours now, I say we make camp and sleep for the night.”

    I looked up at the sky. It was the same red sky I saw since we arrived. There was no sun or anything to cast light upon this bleak land but we had light. That and a raging wind that seemed to start and stop at the most annoying times.

    “How do you know it’s night?” I asked.

    “It’s got to be night by now. At least back home it should be.” said Stoneater in a defensive tone.

    “Night or not my feet ache like …. well like hell.” said Harry.

    “Alright we’ll set up camp. But don’t light any fires or we’ll be spotted from kilometers away.” I said.

    They looked at me as if they we’re about to start cursing. But they decided to shut up and prepare a camp. I think they were annoyed because I suggested they’d light a fire in this dammed heat. I shrugged and helped them set up camp. It wasn’t much but it was better than nothing. A tent for each of us and that was it. At least it would keep us out of the wind. And just as we finished setting up the tents the wind started blowing again. I didn’t care, I just went inside my tent and searched my backpack for some food. I found some dried meat and a flask of water. I ate the meat then I drank some water and decided to get some sleep. Then I noticed that Andreea’s tent was empty. Since curiosity got the better of me I went outside to look for her.

    The second I left my tent I found myself in the middle of a dust storm. The wind was howling like some mad creature and the dust was everywhere. I could barely see Andreea in the distance. I walked toward her, fighting the wind all the way. When I got closer I noticed that the storm didn’t seem to bother her. I decided to see what she was doing so I walked until I reached her side. Or at least I tried. When I got within five feet of her I felt as though I ran into a wall of jelly. And just as quickly the sensation disappeared, along with the storm.

    No, the storm didn’t disappear, I realized. It was still raging all around me. Then I began to suspect that Andreea had created some sort of bubble that protected her from that dammed wind. Considering we were in Hell maybe the wind was dammed, you never know.

    “Hope I’m not bothering” I said as I sat down next to her.

    She looked at me and I could see a few tears rolling down her face. The sight of those tears brought a sadness to my heart that I couldn’t explain.

    “No you’re not bothering” she said “ I just wanted to be alone for a little while but I that’s not helping either.”

    “Drako told me about Garak” I said “ I know the kind of pain you carry in your heart right know.”

    “Do you now?” the expression on her face suggested she didn’t believe me.

    “Yes, it’s the same pain I carried around for years. First when my parents were killed by some thugs, then when the first girl I loved said she didn’t want to see me as long as she lived. That wasn’t much since two days later her house was burned down by raiding orcs. By that time the pain turned to anger so I didn’t really care. And then there’s the pain I carry for every friend and comrade I lost along the way. Mercenaries all but still my friends and comrades. And believe me the list of dead is a very long one. So yes I know the pain you feel, I know it all to well.”

    She was silent but she looked at me with pity in her eyes. Pity for all I have suffered, all the death that surrounded me since I was seven. All the blood on my hands since I was sixteen. All the times I stared death in the face and ended up joking about it. Well, you either joke about it or you turn into a grim man, into a man who lives from one day to the next waiting for death to claim him. I rather joke about it, even if my sense of humor can be morbid sometimes. That or my usual sarcasm.

    “But I didn’t come here to tell you about my life, I came here to see how you’re doing. To see if I can help.”

    “I just feel the need to talk to someone.”

    “Then talk. I’ll listen.”

    I don’t know how long we sat there, talking about Garak. At any rate we sat long enough that the storm stopped. Not that we noticed when it stopped, we just sat there and talked. I don’t know if talking to me had helped her. I hope so.

    “I think we should return to the camp” she said “I think I should get some sleep.”

    “Alright let’s go” I said. Of course I didn’t feel tired at all. I think the Armor was responsible for that as well.

    As we returned to the camp I heard a rumbling sound from behind. I turned around only to see one of the nearby boulders open four bulbous eyes, all with a malevolent gleam. As I stared at it in horror the boulder rose on eight armored legs. When it rose to it’s full height the creature was twice as tall as me. I also realized it was metallic, some sort of construct. It looked familiar but I couldn’t remember where I saw it before. Probably in a book in the monks house.

    The creature looked at me and raised it’s forelegs, each one ending in a huge claw. The creature then looked at something behind me and started toward it. I didn’t have to turn and look to guess that Andreea was it’s target.

    I took my bastard sword in my right hand and charged the creature. It didn’t seem to notice me so I bashed one of it’s legs with my sword. Obviously the sword couldn’t cut through the metal leg but the acid on my blade did have some effect. Slowly it began to burn the metal, but still I’d have to hit the leg dozens of times before the acid would cut through it.

    Still my attack did not go unnoticed and the creatures tried to stab me with it’s clawed forelegs. Luckily I managed to avoid them and get out of it’s attack range. Or at least I thought so. Just as I was getting ready for another charge the creatures eyes glowed and four rays of pure destructive energy shot out toward me. I jumped to my right just in time. I was almost fast enough to avoid the eye rays. Almost. One of the rays grazed me and I felt a dreadful cold. Like being stabbed with razor sharp blades of pure ice. Ice so cold it might as well have been made by Auril herself. I rolled on the ground screaming all sort of curses.

    As I lay on the ground I could see Andreea cast a spell and a steady stream of fire erupted from her hands and hit the creature right in the head. But that was not enough and the creature, which I suddenly remembered was called a retriever, still headed toward her.

    I don’t know what but something in me screamed at me to get up and stop that thing before it’s to late. Cursing every second , because the muscles on the left side of my body were half frozen, I got up. Still cursing I took Frozen Death from it’s sheath and threw it toward the retriever. The blade flew with unnatural precision. It entered one of the retrievers eyes. The glass broke and the creature let out a metallic howl of anger or pain. Still having Frozen Death sticking out of one of it’s eyes it turned toward me and I could swear that the gleam in it’s remaining eyes became even more malevolent. It started to come toward me but before it could get within claw range an arrow bounced from it’s body.

    I looked to my right and saw Harry getting another arrow ready and in front of him came Elf and Stoneater. Both were howling battle cries and Stoneater was swinging his huge dwarven warhammer. The retriever seemed confused about which target to attack. The confusion didn’t last long. It’s eyes glowed again and another salvo of destructive energy shot out, this time toward Elf and Stoneater. They both managed to avoid the salvo, barely.

    I took advantage of the creatures distraction and charged it. Well I stumbled toward it actually, since my frozen muscles made breaking and popping sounds with each step. And the pain was just under my pain tolerance limit. Of course the retriever turned toward me and stabbed with one of it’s forelegs. I couldn’t avoid the blow this time so the huge claw hit me full on. The massive tip hit me right in the chest with amazing strength and knocked me down. The clawed foreleg did not retreat, it kept putting pressure upon me. If I was wearing any other armor the blow would have been enough to kill me, since the claw’s tip would have pierced any armor. And even if it wouldn’t have then the huge pressure would have bent the armor so much that it would have made breathing impossible. But I was wearing the Dragon Armor and the dragon scales that made up the armor, held.

    The retrievers eyes started glowing again but before it could unleash another devastating salvo an arrow entered one of it’s eyes. The creature howled again and lifted it’s forelegs. I quickly rolled from under it’s raised legs and got back on my feet. My muscles were back to normal again so I wasn’t cursing any longer. I suspected that without the armor that freezing blast would have turned me into an ice cube instead of just freezing my muscles for a time.

    I saw Harry preparing another arrow, Elf yelling and waving his arms, trying to get the retrievers attention, Stoneater getting ready to bash the creatures legs with his warhammer and Andreea preparing to cast another spell. I decided it was time to kill this thing so I did something natural for me. I circled it until I was behind it and then I jumped on it’s back. Just as I landed I could feel the creature stagger as Stoneater’s warhammer bashed one of it’s legs. Then Andreea cast and a lightning bolt hit the creature. It howled again and shot another salvo, this time toward Harry. But the ranger managed to duck the salvo and fire another arrow. This time the arrow bounced from the creatures head.

    Ignoring everything around me, I concentrated on crawling toward the retrievers head. The thing then realized it had an enemy on it’s back. It tried to impale me on it’s clawed forelegs but it couldn’t reach me very well and the only thing it managed was to dent it’s armored hide. Once I reached it’s head I looked around for the dwarf and when I saw him I yelled.

    “Throw me your warhammer so I can kill this thing!”

    The dwarf threw the warhammer toward me. Normally I shouldn’t have been able to catch and hold the heavy weapon. But because of the Dragon Armor which gave me a lot of strength I caught the weapon. Then, holding the warhammer in a two handed grip over my head, I yelled.

    “It’s time for you to die beast!”

    And then I started bashing it’s head with all my strength. The warhammer did excellent work. After seven blows the retriever fell to the ground. The top of it’s metallic head was completely flat. It’s eyes had cracked and exploded after the fifth blow. And what could be seen inside it’s head looked frozen. Probably because of Frozen Death, which was stuck in one of the eye holes and slowly began to freeze the creature’s insides. I gave Stoneater his warhammer and retrieved Frozen Death from the ruined hulk.

    Then I looked toward Andreea and said.

    “This thing was after you. I think we should move our camp. And I while you people get some sleep I’ll stand watch.”

    The next few days went by without any incident. We came closer and closer to the only building that we could see for miles around us. Actually I think it’s the only one on Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells.

    Calling it a building is an understatement of titanic proportions, because it’s actually a fortress that is surrounded by twelve concentric ring walls. The walls themselves are studded with towers, ballistas and who knows how many magical and non-magical traps. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of devils that are defending the fortress or are preparing to invade the Infinite Layers of the Abyss. Because of the eternal war between devils and demons. The so called Blood War.

    But we weren’t concerned with demonic wars. We had to figure out how to save Cristi from that infernal place.

    We decided to use what rope we had left and an arrow enchanted with a meld spell, to climb the wall. What we would do after that … who knows.
    As we approached the outermost wall, Andreea lightly touched my right shoulder. I stopped and looked at her.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    “I can feel a trap on the wall.” She closed her eyes and I could see her frown in concentration. Before I could ask she said. “Yes it’s a magical trap, otherwise I couldn’t have detected it. And I can’t deactivate it. I can only stop it once it’s activated.”

    Her words didn’t make much sense to me but I knew where this discussion was headed. After all I was the only one of us that could take a lot of pounding and remain alive.

    “You want me to activate it?”

    She opened her eyes and I could see she was grateful. It’s easier when someone offers to get himself killed than it is when you have to ask that person to get killed. Of course I had no intension of getting killed.

    “Just give me a few moments to prepare the spell.”

    “Alright .”

    I turned toward Harry and asked him to get ready with the arrow.

    “Are you crazy?” he shouted “ Do you see how high that wall is? I couldn’t put an arrow up there even if you gave me all the gems in Calimshan.”

    I was about to tell him to stop shouting before all devils in the fortress would hear him when Andreea told me to go ahead. I turned and started going toward the wall. As I passed Andreea I saw she had her eyes closed and her hands were moving in front of her and Drako was sitting on her left shoulder.

    “Be careful lad.” said Stoneater.

    I continued toward the wall, my eyes searching it’s black surface for any clues of what kind of trap I was about to activate. But the huge smooth, black stones gave no indication as to what they were hiding. When I was about 36 feet from the wall, the trap was triggered. A part of the wall, about 20 feet wide and 30 tall, was sprouting huge thorns. And the thorns were growing longer and longer, probably until they reached me. They were fast alright, it took them three seconds to reach me. I jumped to my left to avoid one thorn only to find another coming toward me. I ducked under it and rolled to my left again. But as I was rolling on the ground I bumped into something, a another thorn. I looked up only to see another thorn above me and I barely saw yet another blocking my escape to my right. Then I looked right in front and saw another one heading straight for my head. I looked at it’s black surface and realized it’s made out of the same rock as the wall. Not that that particular information would help me. Even if it didn’t kill me, it could still leave me unconscious from the force of the impact. But then, just as it was about to hit me, it stopped. I looked behind and saw Andreea, arms crossed over her chest, wearing a very big smile on her face. She was obviously pleased with herself. I shook my head and almost laughed. The whole thing only took a few seconds but it seemed like minutes to me. I managed to get out of that maze and walked over to my companions.

    “Good work.” I told Andreea. She nodded but didn’t say anything. I then turned toward the wall and looked up. Harry was right, it was to high to shot an arrow. But not that high that you couldn’t fly up there.

    “Give me the rope and the arrow.” I said. Harry gave me the two items and I tied one end of the rope to the arrows body. Then I turned toward Drako and created an image in my head. It shoed Drako flying to the top of the wall and touching it with the arrows tip. The tip immediately turned black and looked like it was turning into water. Then the rest of the arrow did the same but instead of falling to the ground the black mass was absorbed by the wall. And the rope remained untouched and still tied to the arrow which was now part of the wall. Drako nodded that he understood and grabbed the arrow and like a scaled missile he went straight for the top of the wall.

    After Drako left I approached Andreea and asked her why did Kazar want her dead and what was with the retriever.

    “Kazar sent me away because I was distracting his best student.”

    “Garak?”

    “Yes.” She smiled but it was a sad smile. “ He was thinking about me so much that he didn’t care about magic. And Kazar was not about to see his best student wasting his time with something so shallow as love. At least that’s what he said. As for the retriever, I don’t know.”

    I nodded and said nothing else. I remembered what Garak said he would do to Kazar if he ever got his hands on him. I hoped Kazar would fall into Garak’s hands. And the slow, painful death that would follow. Normally I wouldn’t care but when someone tries to kill my friends and comrades I have only murderous thoughts directed at that person.

    Before long Drako landed on my shoulder and told me all was ready. I signaled the rest and we made our way through the maze of thorns to were the rope hanging. As we started climbing Elf asked if we could expect any other traps. Andreea said that it was safe. Or at least as safe as it could be considering where we were. Climbing the wall proved to be slower than I imagined. The stoned weren’t rough at all, they were actually slippery. So we couldn’t use our feet, we were hanging from the rope and using our arms was the only way to climb. I was lucky I had the armor. Because it gave me unnatural strength, I could hold on to the rope with one hand and not get tired. I also had to carry our mage. So Andreea had her arms around my neck and was trying not to look down while I was busy climbing. I think that she was holding on to me tight enough to strangle me. Lucky I had the armor.

    When I finally reached the top I grabbed the edge of the wall with one hand, then the other and I pulled myself up. It wasn’t easy because I couldn’t just roll over the wall, not with Andreea hanging on to me. I almost let out a curse because of that. I knew why I had to carry her, because for the moment I was strongest and because she had to be rested if she was going to be able to cast any spells. But I still didn’t like it. Not because I had anything against Andreea but because I couldn’t get over the wall quickly and that made us both vulnerable to an attack. And she was way more vulnerable than me. Still, after a few moments both of us was on the wall and checking the area for devils. There were none in sight. Strange, I thought.

    It only took another minute until everyone was on the wall. Once we were ready we decided to head toward the nearest tower. But when we reached the towers door, it opened and a barbazu, a bearded devil, came out. It was a little taller than me and had pointed ears, a scaly skin, clawed hands and feet and a spiky, disgusting beard. It didn’t have any weapons, weird considering that the fortress could be attacked by demons at any second. The devil looked at us and, before I could get my sword in my hand, it said in an acceptable common.

    “What in blazing hells are you sell swords doing on the wall? I wasn’t told you weak, dumb graznats would be site seeing around the fortress. Get back to were the rest of you maggots are. And tell your leader that I would be happy to feast on his heart if he comes around this place.”

    I was totally confused. What is he babbling about? What leader, what group of mercenaries? In short, What?

    After he finished the devil turned his back to us and went back inside. I turned to the rest of the group. They were as confused as me. We tried to make any sense of what the devil had said. When we finished we could come to only one conclusion. Some one, probably a evil mage, had hired a group of mercenaries, or sell swords as the devil said, and came here. But what business would the mage have with these devils? And why didn’t the devils kill him on sight?

    We decided to play along for a while. I opened the door and we walked into the tower. The room we found ourselves in was small, round and foul smelling. It had one narrow window, for archers, a small table and three chairs. Seated on the chairs were three barbazu, each with a different style to his beard. One of them, with a horribly long beard that was full of crumbs and other things, got up and yelped in surprise. He tried to grab the crossbow that was on the floor next to him but an arrow came from behind me and took the devil in the neck. The creature tried to call for help but the only sound that came was just a guttural noise. I was just about to draw my sword when I noticed that the other two devils were just looking at us. On of them, the one with the spiky beard, looked at the corpse and spit in it’s direction.

    “Stupid idiot.” Said one of the devils. Then he and his companion started talking and laughing about something. They would occasionally point at their dead companion and laugh even louder. I shrugged and headed toward the stairs. The devils didn’t even spare us a glance. We went down to the base of the tower. On every floor we were ignored. When we left the tower we found ourselves between two huge walls. The courtyard was full of devils but they all ignored us. They were eating, or practicing with weapons – using captured demons as targets – or they were adding something to the walls.

    “It should easy to get our thief back if they ignore us.” Said Stoneater.

    “Drako not like this. Something very wrong here. Drako can sense strong presence, great evil.”

    “Of course there’s a great evil here.” Said Elf “ What would you expect?”

    “I was expecting a lot of bloodthirsty devils trying to kill us.” I commented.

    “I was hoping for …” Harry didn’t finish his sentence because Drako started laughing. Of course if the wheezing noise he made could be named laughter.

    “If Drako laughs then I don’t want to know.” Said Andreea.

    “Why?”

    “Because he has a morbid sense of humor, he’ll laugh about corpses, ways of getting killed or anything sex related.”

    Harry stared at Drako and said, in a low, menacing tone.

    “Stay out of mind or I’ll kill you.”

    It was Andreea’s turn to stare, but I wouldn’t want her to look my way like that. The coldness in her eyes was absolute. I felt a shiver run up my spine just seeing her like that. She didn’t need any words, her eyes said what would happen to the person who made her angry.

    “Drako doesn’t enter your mind, he just hears what your thinking about. He can’t stop any more than you can stop listening with your ears.”

    Harry muttered something to himself and looked somewhere else. I also looked somewhere else. I was scanning the courtyard for any buildings. There were a few but only one looked like it would lead to a dungeon. It was a small building, covered with spiked metal plates and reeked of death. I told the others and we went in that direction. We entered it without any trouble. The room we were in was incredibly cold. A table sat in the middle of the room and at that table, reading some old scrolls, sat a woman. She was dressed in black robes and had her hood up so we couldn’t see her face. She turned toward us.

    “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Get out of my house before I call the guards.”

    There were also some stairs that went down, below ground. We descended the stairs and entered another cold room. This one had two barbazu in it. They were holding saw toothed glaives and looked rather bored. But they both got their weapons pointed at us, as soon as they saw us. This time we didn’t bother with talking. One of the devils fell with an arrow sticking out of his left eye, the other found himself under attack by a small red missile. Drako flew circles around the devil and then he launched himself at the devils neck. Before he knew it the devil was dead, his blood flowing out his body through the massive hole in his neck. Drako was sitting on the devils chest, his snout covered with black blood, and was making that wheezing sound again.

    “I told you his sense of humor is morbid.”

    “What’s so funny anyway?” I asked.

    “Devil not see Drako coming, he not see Drako’s jaws close around his neck, he think we maggots but he’s dead. Now the maggots will make a feast out of his body. And their blood tastes like rotten meat.”

    “Told you.” Andreea whispered into my year.

    Meanwhile Stoneater tried to open the door only to find out it’s locked. He then lifted his warhammer and bashed the door as hard as he could. The door was completely destroyed with bits of it flying in all directions. He looked at me and said.

    “Armored people first. No offense but arrows will just bounce off that armor but they might find my unprotected face. So after you lad.”

    I laughed and went through the shattered remains of the door. I found myself in a long tunnel, with a door every five feet or so. We decided that we found the prison so we started to bash doors. It was a wonder no one came down to see what the noise was all about. Finally, after we smashed about twenty doors and found only corpses in various stages of rotting, we found Cristi. The little thief was lying on his back whistling some stupid tavern song. When he saw us he quickly got up.

    “Just look at him.” Said Stoneater “ We risk our necks to rescue him and what do we find? We find him being lazy! He isn’t even chained to something. They just threw him in here and forgot about him.”

    I rolled my eyes and told Stoneater to leave all that for later and then I told Cristi to move. I then turned to Andreea.

    “Can you get us out here?”

    “Yes but I can’t cast in here. We’re in the range of some sort of ward that negates magic. I can only cast outside, in the courtyard.” She gave an apologetic look. I nodded and led the way outside. This was going to get ugly, I just knew it. As we were leaving the prison the robed woman began ranting about us being in her house, we ignored her. I took Frozen Death and handed it to Andreea.

    “You might need it.”

    “Thanks.”

    After that I took out my bastard sword and entered the courtyard. I immediately noticed that all the devils were arranged in a semicircle around the prison and standing well in back was a huge devil. It was twice as tall as a human and it’s body was covered in flames. It had two bat like wings and a whip like tail. When it grinned it revealed sharp teeth dripping venom. That particular devil was a Pit Fiend. It looked at us once and said something. As one all the devils charged us.

    “Andreea begin casting!” I yelled.

    After that I took a few steps forward and braced myself. An arrow went passed my head and a barbazu screamed and feel. They had us outnumbered and we didn’t have mage support because our mage was busy opening a portal to safety. The first to reach me was a hamatula, a barbed devil. It was 7 feet tall and it’s body was covered with sharp barbs. It hissed once then it jumped toward me, probably trying to impale me on his barbs. But as he was almost upon me I brought my bastard sword across his belly. The sword ripped through flesh and the devil fell at my feet, his guts littering the ground. I ignored the corpse and beheaded a barbazu that was trying to get passed me. His head rolled toward Andreea but she didn’t notice. After that came a dozen or so lemurs. They looked like a molten mass of flesh oozing across the ground. Their heads and arms resembled human ones but that was it. Lucky for me the things were completely brainless. I cut them down without trouble but more barbazu surged forward.

    Harry was sending arrow after arrow at the mass of devils but they didn’t care. Elf was using his two scimitars and was making a beautiful but deadly dance of death. His scimitars were cutting through flesh with ease and his speed was making him hard to hit. Stoneater was using his warhammer like a broom. Sweeping back and forth in front of him and each time more devils fell to the ground. Before long there was a huge pile of corpses in front of us. But they kept coming.

    Another barbazu tried to stab me with his glaive but I was quicker than him and my sword bit into the flesh of his left thigh and then traced a bloody line as it entered his body, ripping through muscle and bone, and then ended it’s arc and came out through the devils right shoulder, taking his arm with it. The arm flew through the air spraying blood in every direction as the devils ruined body collapsed to the ground in a puddle of his own blood. But then a huge devil, easily 9 feet tall, landed in front of me. It had a vague human shape and it’s body was covered by hideous scales, it tail was whipping through the air and it’s bat like wings were spread wide. It opened it’s huge mouth and roared. It was a bone chilling roar that would send many creatures running for cover. That was when it also revealed it’s sharp teeth. As I looked into it’s red eyes I could see the hatred and lust for blood. The huge devil before me was a cornugon, a horned devil, they were elite warriors, horrible to look upon. This one was armed with a halberd that was as big as it.

    It roared again and then it struck. I brought my sword to deflect the blow but I underestimated the devils strength. The halberd struck my blade with bone rattling force. Anyone else would have been thrown to the ground, but once again the armor saved me. I tried to lunge at the devil but he was quicker. He stabbed with the halberd and this time I didn’t manage to deflect it. It hit me straight in the stomach. I took two steps backward from the force of the blow. Again the armor protected me from most of strength of the impact. Before I could recover the cornugon was upon me, raining one mighty blow after another. I managed to deflect most of them but my arms were begging to tire from the strength of the blows. Before I knew it I was backing away from the devil, but it kept coming after me. Finally I decided not to take one more step back no matter what that meant. Then I heard Andreea say.

    “Portal’s opened.”

    That was when the cornugon ducked. I didn’t know why he did it but I ducked as well. Only to see a huge fireball fly over both our heads. I was glad I ducked. Only to hear a scream that turned my blood to ice. I didn’t dare turn to look. I could guess what had happed. Then the devil jumped up and holding his halberd over his head in both hands he struck down at me. I got up and raised my sword over my head but the force of the blow was incredible. I could hear my bones near the braking point as the blow drove me to me knees. Then the devil stuck again and again. The ground under my knees was begging to shatter.

    Then, before another stoke could fall, I turned around and saw her. The second I saw her burned body, smoke still rising from it and Frozen Death still in her hand, I lost all control. I felt a burning rage come over me, coursing through my veins like molten lava, burning away every thought and emotion except one. The desire to KILL. I could feel it like a raging inferno burning inside my chest, giving me strength again.

    And I used that strength, I used it because I had nothing to lose, all I wanted was to kill the Pit Fiend. I wanted his blood to run free on the soil and his head on a spike.

    So I charged the cornugon that forced my retreat. He just stood there, grinning and showing me his razor sharp teeth. Heedless of the danger I rushed in and bashed his halberd with all my strength. His weapon out of the way for a few seconds I lunged in and stabbed. The tip of my sword biting into his leg. He roared in anger and tried to hit the side of my head with a sweeping attack of the halberd. I ducked his attack and lunged again. This time he leapt back to avoid my attack.

    I smiled, a predatory smile, now he was backing away. Now it would his turn to knell before me. I continued my attack with powerful blows. He parried again and again but he was getting tired. When I saw him tire I intensified my onslaught. Before he knew it the devil was down on one knee and was holding the halberd in a two handed grip over his head. I felt no pity as I brought my sword down. The sword hit the halberd with such force that sparks flew in all directions and the halberd broke. The sword continued it’s course until it hit the devils head. Then it began to tear through without stopping. It cut right through his head and continued until it hit the ground. The devil had been cut in to bloody halves. Each half fell to one side making a wet, meaty sound as it hit the ground.

    I brought my sword up in front of me and looked the Pit Fiend in the eye. He must have seen the murder in my eyes for fear appeared in his own. There must have been twenty devils between us but that did not matter. Twenty or a thousand, it made no difference. He killed one of my friends and that made my blood boil.

    Roaring out my grief I charged toward the Pit Fiend, my sword swinging left and right. I heard the dwarf call after me but I didn’t stop.

    “Go, don’t wait for me!” I yelled and continued my suicidal charge. By the time I was teen feet away from the Pit Fiend my armor was completely covered with black blood. I didn’t care, all I cared was to kill so I continued to kill. Decapitating a lemure, cutting a barbazu’s arms, gashing open the stomach of a hamatula and so on.

    And then, just before I could reach him, the Pit Fiend casted and a huge fireball exploded right over my head. It created a circle with a diameter of twenty feet and everything in that circle was burning and dieing. All except the Pit Fiend. The heat was incredible and once again the armor saved my life. If I didn’t have it on I would have been burned to ashes in a matter of seconds. As it was I felt my skin begin to burn away slowly. I took a painful step forward and my sword found the neck of a burning barbazu. After that I took another step and another. The Pit Fiend was now backing away, clearly terrified. He knew I would kill him.

    “Your time has not come yet, my warrior.” Said the dragons voice in my head.

    In that second a portal opened before me and I stepped through it.

    I found myself in a forest with the rest of my comrades standing next to Andreea’s body. They saw me the second I came through the portal. That was when I truly felt the pain. The armor was so hot that it was burning me. I quickly let my sword drop and took of my helmet. I screamed as the skin that was stuck to it also came away. Then I took of one gauntlet, screaming and cursing all the time as skin and meat was ripped from my body by the armor. I had to take of every piece myself, couldn’t let the others burn themselves. By the time I was finished my body was numb from the all the pain. I fell to the ground and passed out.

    When I regained consciousness I found myself lying on a soft bed. I could feel the bandages that covered my body. I was alive even though I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to add another friend to the list of the dead. Then I looked to my right. And my heart stopped. There lying on a bed and similarly bandaged was Andreea. She was alive. The happiness that should have filled my heart was stopped by her. She looked at with those mesmerizing eyes of hers and I clearly saw the anger in them. She was angry with me. Angry because I ducked when I shouldn’t have. I could have easily survived that fireball. I suspect that it was only because of Frozen Death that she survived. And the anger she aimed at me hurt more than anything else in the world. I was surprised by the rage and the grief that overcame me when I thought her dead. And now by how much it hurt to know that she was angry at me, that I failed her. That was when I realized what was different. I knew what my heart kept telling me. I loved her.
     
  6. Kelvon Shadowmane Gems: 12/31
    Latest gem: Moonstone


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    Poor Cristi... I know he's useless, esspecially considering the fact that i have to deal with his uselessness personaly...
     
  7. Lord Garak Gems: 7/31
    Latest gem: Tchazar


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    Yep, poor Cristi. I admit that Harry, Cristi and Andreea are inspired (not perfect copies, just some of their characteristics upon which I could create a belivebel character) after real people I know and I used my self as a mold for Hirad (so he's constent-except I don't have a tragic background like Hirad) but most writers tend to create characters after people they know.

    Chapter four's up and Hirad will find out that not everyone with demon blood in them are evil. WARNING if you're disgusted by the undead, don't eat while you read. Thank you and I hope you enjoy reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it.


    Hunted


    For the next two months, Andreea refused to talk to me. She remained angry and I was bashing my head against a wall because I ducked when I shouldn’t have. Still by the end of the second month she finally forgave me, after which I only saw her a few times because she was up to something. I didn’t know what and I didn’t ask. I was trying to figure out what to do with my feelings toward her. I would spent entire days trying to figure it out but I couldn’t find an answer.

    While Andreea and me were healing in a temple of Ilmater, the rest of the group was trying to find out what was happening toward the south. The news they brought was disturbing.

    A war had broken out between Halruaa and Dambrath. No one knows why. They only know that the Halruaan army had defeated the Dambrath troops at every encounter. The Halruaans were camped two miles east of Cathtyr, Dambrath’s capital. The Halruaan army was waiting for dawn, when they could march on the capital and slaughter the few defenders that remained. But when dawn came there was no Halruaan army. It vanished, the camp was still there but it was empty. And then came news that Dambrath has a new queen. Apparently the other queen was killed by one of her daughters, nothing new there. Of course that one’s sisters were killed as well. Since that quick conflict no more news came from either Dambrath or Halruaa.

    As far as I was concerned something queer was happening there. But it was way to soon to go south. And I had enough things to do along the Dragon Coast. Word had gotten out that I lead a raid into the Nine Hells to rescue a comrade. Of course like any story that one also took a life of it’s own. I was amazed when I heard a variant that claimed that I killed the horned devil just by gazing into his eyes. Another story said that I stole the devils soul and used it to collapse a part of the wall. I swear people can have an imagination of impossible size. How can you destroy a wall with a soul? The dragon was right, I was becoming famous.

    I also had a pleasant surprise when I left the temple. I was worried because I couldn’t find my enchanted bastard sword. But when I walked out of the temple, I saw my comrades, who were smiling as if they knew something I didn’t. Then Stoneater and Andreea gave me something the length of my sword, all wrapped up in silk. I carefully unwrapped it and saw my sword. But something was different about it. It had six runes carved near the hilt. I had no idea what those runes said, I only saw that they glowed and eerie red. I looked at Andreea and Stoneater. They smiled and Stoneater said.

    “Hope ye don’t mind but while ye were getting a well deserved sleep in that temple, I thought to give ye something. So I found a way to get yer blade and made it even better.”

    “Better?”

    “Yes.” Stoneater had a very big smile on his face. “That blade will cut through almost anything now. If we happen to meet any other retrievers ye can cut their legs with ease.”

    I sent a questioning look toward Andreea. She shrugged and said.

    “I stole your sword and gave it to him.”

    “One more thing” Stoneater said “ I took the liberty o’ naming it. I thought of something that would remind others of how dangerous ye can be but that would also remind ye not to be suicidal ever again. So I named her Killer Rage.”

    I shook my head and laughed. Leave it to a dwarf to turn even a deadly blade into a deadlier one. Killer Rage indeed.

    The next four months were spent in the war against evil. Either we would find something or someone would come and beg us for help. Why did they always have to beg? Anyway we were becoming more and more famous. It was all going very well until one day when we stopped in Westgate for some well deserved rest. We left most of our things at the inn we were staying at. Andreea cast a spell on each door. Anyone tries to break inside gets killed. Fine by me because I also left my armor in my room, both the original and the replica and Killer Rage. I was wearing only a leather shirt for protection.

    While my friends went to the nearest tavern I started to walk around the city. I was keeping to the shadows, I didn’t want anyone to recognize me, when I felt a sharp blade being pressed against my neck and a voice that said.

    “Give me all your money and you’ll live. Don’t try to be a hero just do as I said.”

    I almost laughed. Here I was, the man who raided the Nine Hells, being mugged. As quietly as I could I griped Frozen Death in my left hand. Then I looked at my attacker. The guy looked like a farmer and I could see he was scared. I shook my head and attacked. I leaned back from the thug as if I was falling. He tied to open my throat but missed and I grabbed his arm as if to balance myself. He was so surprised that he didn’t even have time to see my left hand appear from beneath my cloak. I pulled him so hard that he slammed into me with enough force to throw both of us to the ground. As we fell I heard the thug make a grunting sound. As soon as my back hit the ground I rolled and got up on my feet. And saw that it wasn’t necessary. Frozen Death was sticking out of the guys chest. The thug was still alive, barely. He was trying to breath but all that came out was a gurgling sound. I grabbed Frozen Death and pulled it out, then I cleaned the blade on the guys shirt and sheathed it. I shook my head again and left.

    I went to the tavern were the rest of the group was. I opened the door and was assaulted by the smell of ale. I took one more breath of fresh air and entered. The place was almost full since the only table that was occupied was a booth in one corner. I looked for the rest of my group but saw only two. Stoneater was having a drinking contest with two humans. Poor guys, don’t they know that a dwarf can drink a whole keg of ale and not even blink. The other member of our group that I could see, was Andreea. She was talking to another mage while Drako flew circles around his head. The mage tried to shoo him away but didn’t succeed.

    I chuckled to myself and headed for the empty booth. As I sat down the waitress came to see what I wanted. I looked at the halfling and told her I only wanted some water. She nodded and went to get my drink. I don’t like ale and what I do like costs to much. Sure, I still had most of the money the dragon gave me but I was not about to spend it on drinks. The waitress returned with my water and I gave one silver coin. I felt generous. Her eyes widened when she saw my bulging pouch but she didn’t say anything else. I snorted and scanned the room for any troublemakers. I only saw one person who was suspicious, a guy who had his hood up and cloak pulled tight around himself, as if the light disturbed him. The second that thought was formed I decided to find out what he was hiding.

    Before I could do anything someone slipped into the chair opposite mine. I was about to say the first thing that came to mind but then I recognized Andreea. I bit my tongue as hard as I could, so I wouldn’t say anything stupid.

    “Hello Hirad, what brings you here?” The small, almost ironic, smile that was trying to appear suggested she had a few a smart comments to throw my way unless I could find a good reason for being there. Since I entered taverns about as often as a ghoul.

    “I was curios what you were all doing. We’re the rest?”

    “They went into the basement to check the ale. Though I think they’re planning to get seriously drunk.” Just as she said that Drako started laughing.

    “Is there anything he doesn’t find funny?”

    “I don’t know. He can be as serious as an old monk one second and the next he laughs about anything.” Drako was still laughing, his tail, which was twice his length, was pointing at something. I looked and saw Stoneater drinking ale like it was water and only one of the humans was still at the table. The other one had fallen underneath and fell asleep and was now snoring. I almost laughed but I restrained myself.

    “So why didn’t you say hello or anything when you came in?” she asked.

    “Well I saw you talking to some guy, a mage I suspect, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

    “Hirad you’re the worst liar ever. It wouldn’t be the first time you walked in a conversation to say something.”

    “True but this time … I know this sounds stupid but I’m not in my element here. I don’t mind crowds, heck I took part in two full scale battles, but I don’t feel comfortable here. Can you understand that?’

    “Yes I think I can. From what you told me so far your parents were killed by thugs and you were raised by two monks.”

    “Right. I was seven when that happened. The two monks tried to teach me magic at first. But I was worst at it than Cristi at being a thief.”

    “So, what did they teach you then?”

    “War. They trained me to be a warrior. They trained me with almost every weapon ever made. And I took to that like a fish to water. Then they taught me about strategy and tactics.”

    “Wait.” She looked a confused. “ Two monks taught you about war?”

    “Ever heard of Tempus?” Now it was my turn to have an ironic smile.

    “Right, never mind.” She said lamely. “ So these monks trained you and raised you. Were you still with them when you first fell in love.”

    “Yes. That happened when I fourteen, I think.” I drank a little more water. I didn’t like to reopen old wounds. “ But can we skip that part? You already know what happened and I’m not curious to remember.”

    “Sure.” The look on her face suggested she felt sorry for me. She doesn’t even know the half of it. She doesn’t know how long the list of the dead is. Even as I was thinking about that I saw , with my mind’s eye, every friend and comrade I lost. There were so many, so many of them, I couldn’t believe I knew them all. And they all died the warriors death. The death that has been stalking me since I first picked up a sword.

    “Hirad!” Andreea shouted. I looked up and realized that I had drifted away. At least mentally. I let myself wonder through the dark places of my mind.

    “Sorry.” I said and drank some more water.

    “That okay.” I think she realized where I had gone. “I didn’t want to open old wounds. I only wanted to know something so I can confirm a suspicion of mine.”

    “And what’s that?”

    “That you were thrust into the harsh reality of the world before you could even enjoy life. You saw everyone around you die so eventually you closed your heart to the world. You were supposed to be chasing girls but you were learning how to kill. You were a loner because it suited you. Sure, you had friends but they were just like you. They accepted you because they could understand what you went through. Tell me how was it that first time you took part in a full scale battle.”

    “Are you joking? I was terrified. Nothing and I mean nothing can prepare you for that first day of slaughter. You can train all you want, you can fight as many creatures as you want it doesn’t matter. Because it is impossible to imagine what it feels like to be surrounded by thousands of soldiers, a huge mass of living, thinking creatures, all trying to kill each other. By the end of the day your body screams for sleep and your arm feels like it will fall out of it’s socket any second. And then you realize you’re alive. And immediately after that you remember those friends and comrades that didn’t make it. And you crawl into your tent and fall asleep in a few seconds. And then when you wake up you find your body is still tired and you realize that you’ll have to do all that again. But this time when you charge into battle you do so knowing that your body can fail you any second. Your legs might not be able to hold, your sword arm might be to slow or you tired eyes might not notice the stray arrow heading toward you. That’s what happened to me.” I pointed to the scar on my forehead. “I was lucky that Kaimar saw the arrow. He grabbed me and pulled me down. The arrow only grazed me. If it wasn’t for Kaimar I would be dead now.”

    We didn’t have time to continue the conversation because the other human that was drinking with Stoneater was up on his feet. I couldn’t understand a word of what he said but then he grabbed the table and broke it on the dwarfs head. Huge mistake. Stoneater shook his head and charged his attacker. The dwarfs fists were like sledgehammers and the human didn’t stand a chance. Of course it was to late to stop everyone in the tavern to join and fighting broke out. It was chaos. I grabbed Andreea by the arm and we headed for the door. Tables and chairs were flying through the air and Andreea was lucky I was taller, since most of the projectiles kept hitting me. Just as we were almost at the door a idiot with a knife charged me. I let go of Andreea and Frozen Death appeared in my right hand. My attacker was just getting ready when I closed the space between us in two long strides. Before he knew it my dagger had cut his wrist. The man yelled and dropped the knife. I took one more step in his direction and he ran.

    I laughed again and grabbed Andreea again. I pushed her in front and told her to go back to the inn.

    “What are you going to do?”

    “Have to get our dwarf.” I gave her a reassuring look and went back for Stoneater. The tough dwarf was clearing a path for himself with ease. I was five feet away from him when someone screamed and the fighting stopped. The guy next to me fell to the floor, his neck gashed open. The tavern was silent.

    Then everyone looked at me. I still had Frozen Death in my hand and it was covered with blood from the fool who attacked me. I looked around. All eyes were on me. I knew what that meant. The punishment for this sort of thing is death.

    The door was to far away, I wouldn’t make, but the stairs leading to the first floor were only two feet to my left. With a roar, the crowd came toward me. I heard a few cries that suggested the dwarf was trying to buy me some time. I think Stoneater was the only one in the tavern who didn’t think I killed that guy. I pushed through the crowd with all the desperation off a cornered animal. My left fist smashed someone’s nose while my right hand was swinging the dagger left and right. A few bloody imbeciles would have a few scars but I didn’t kill anyone. I ran up the stairs as fast as I could. Then I felt a hand grab my left leg. I turned and brought my right leg into the man’s chin. He let go and fell back down the stairs. Right into the path of other people. They all tripped on the guy I hit. I turned and rushed into the first room I saw.

    I ran straight toward the window, without looking to see if anyone else was in the room. As I crashed through the window I heard a woman scream and a man curse. That wasn’t my problem though. I hit the ground rolling and got up and ran.

    It was almost dawn and I was tired and hungry and wet because it had been raining for the last three hours. But I couldn’t return to the inn. That would be the first place they would look for me. So I was hiding in every alley I could find. I had to move constantly, couldn’t risk some bored patrol stumbling into me. What I hated about the whole thing was the fact that I didn’t kill that guy. I was being hunted for a crime I didn’t commit. And if they caught me, they’d hang me.

    I was getting ready to leave an alley when a door opened behind me and someone grabbed the back of my cloak. Whoever it was pulled hard and fast and I was through the door before I knew it. The door closed but before I could get up my attacker pressed a dagger against my neck. This time it was a professional. The dagger was so sharp I didn’t dare breath, going for my own weapon was not even worth considering. I also realized my attacker was a woman. Two things gave her away. The first was her breathing, it was light enough that I could guess it belonged to a woman. The second was the fact that she held me so tight I could feel her breasts pushing against my back.

    “Don’t try anything smart, you’ll be dead before you know it.” She whispered in my ear. Her voice was silky and cool. She released me and I got up and turned around in just a few seconds. She gave me a smirk, sheathed her dagger and got up. She was dressed in a black leather armor, knee high boots, and a black cloak. Her other garments were also black, so black that I couldn’t tell where her pant’s ended and the leather armor began. And she was armed to the teeth. A rapier was in a sheath on her left and on the right was the dagger she used. Both were hanging form a belt that was stuffed with bolts. Another belt ran across her chest from right hip to left shoulder. I suspected that a crossbow was hanging across her back. I could also see the pommels of two more daggers emerging from her right boot, and she had a spiked gauntlet on her left hand. This woman’s a walking armory, I thought. She’s also a tiefling.

    Her demonic heritage was obvious. Two small horns sprouted from her forehead, her eyes were completely read and when she grinned I could see she had razor sharp teeth. The only thing that was missing was a tail and cloven feet. My hand went toward Frozen Death.

    “Don’t even think about it.” She said. “And don’t be stupid, if I wanted you dead do you think we’d still be standing here?”

    “Maybe you just want to turn me in.”

    “In which case I’d have drugged you with this.” She lightly taped one of the bolts. “And just because my father was a blasted demon doesn’t mean I’m evil.”

    “Oh, sure. Everyone knows tieflings are the most honest creatures in Faerun.” I said with sarcasm dripping from every word.

    “Listen, I want to help you but if you don’t want it then fine by me.” I could see the determination in her eyes. She truly believed what she just said. “Do you have any idea what it feels like to be hunted and despised and what not just because some demon raped your mother and you were the result. I’ve been resisting my heritage for as long as I can remember. And then one day I hear about a great warrior who went to Hell to save his comrade. I gathered every rumor and story I could. I wanted to see if you truly were the man everyone admired. You looked surprised. Why?”

    “Because most people don’t recognize me without the armor. They never remember my face. Only the armor and the weapons.”

    “I’ve learned to remember everything.” She stared at me for a moment then said. “I heard you are being hunted for killing a man in a tavern. Is it true?”

    “No. I didn’t kill that guy. The blood on my blade is from another guy I cut. The fool attacked me with a knife. I only wounded him and he ran. I was going back for my dwarf friend when that guy screamed and fell to the floor.”

    “I believe you. So will you accept my help or not?”

    “Sure, as long as you swear to forget those bloody rumors.”

    “You mean you didn’t go to Hell?”

    “Oh I went there alright. It’s just that the rumors are exaggerated.”

    “I can’t see how. Anyone who goes there willingly has to be brave.”

    “That or he doesn’t give a dam about his life.”

    She looked puzzled. Of course she was. Here was the man who charged into Hell, declaring he didn’t care if he lived or not. She would probably think I’m nuts by the time I finished but what do I care.

    “Yes I don’t care about myself and you want to know why? It’s because I’m a coward.”

    If it was possible she now looked even more confused.

    “Let me clarify. A farmer provides food for others, he has a family, he has to feed them, to keep them safe and healthy and so on. Then one day comes the warrior. And he kills the farmer, he burns down his house and rapes the farmers wife. Then other people call for those like me. And I go and kill that warrior. And that warriors friends will get very angry and kill those that called the likes of me. And I go and kill to butchers. And so on and so on. So who’s braver and more useful to this world, the farmer or the killer?”

    She nodded then said.

    “You forgot about all the monsters in the wilderness.”

    I shrugged, after all I was only a warrior not a scholar. She turned and bid me follow her.

    I spent the next two days in a dark room while the tiefling was trying to find any clues as to who might be the true killer. When she returned she had a troubled face. I could guess that she found something but that it wasn’t very good.

    “Well?” I asked.

    “I know where to find the killer but you’re not going to like this.”

    Half an hour later I had to agree with her. I definitely didn’t like it. And the smell was horrible, but then what would you expect from a bunch of ghouls. The disgusting things eat corpses for a living, it’s a wonder they don’t eat each other. Since they’re dead as well, dead and rotting.

    With one last slash I finally managed to cut off the ghouls head. It’s eyeless head rolled on the ground until it bumped against one of the many zombies walking around. You’d think that those wooden boxes we bury them in are made of paper or something. I swear the tiefling had better be right. When she told me that the assassin was most likely a vampire I knew what that meant. A raid on the local graveyard. Normally you wouldn’t find a vampire in a graveyard but the area around and under Westgate is filled with catacombs. There are areas from which they can be entered but those are located in the sewers. I’d rather go through an army of zombies and other rotting corpses than through an army of rats and wererats.

    I looked around and saw the tiefling cut the legs from beneath a zombie. The brainless thing fell to the ground and started crawling forward. The tiefling reversed her grip on the rapier and stabbed down, severing the zombies spine. The thing moaned but it stopped moving. I then saw a skeleton head toward me. The thing was attacking with a spear. I let it get close then I ducked to the left. As I came up I grabbed one of the skeletons bones and pulled. The thing collapsed in a pile of bones. I shrugged and threw the bone. It hit a ghoul right in it’s swollen, rotting eye. The second the bone hit the eye it exploded, spraying a disgusting black stuff all over. The ghoul didn’t seem to notice, it just charged the tiefling. But the tiefling punched it in the face with her spiked gauntlet.

    I heard a moan behind me and turned, slashing with Frozen Death. The blade cut right through a zombies stomach. Sadly it opened up the thing and the zombies guts flopped to the ground. The undead thing tried to grab me but it slipped on it’s own guts. It fell on it’s back and stopped moving. Another ghoul was coming toward me when a bolt went right into it’s forehead and came out back with what was probably a brain hanging from it’s tip. I turned and saw the tiefling arm her crossbow and fire again. This time the bolt went through a skeleton, collapsing the thing, and stopped between a zombies eyes. I shrugged and stabbed a ghoul between the shoulder blades. The thing screamed and fell right into a open grave. I turned and slashed my dagger across a zombies throat and then stabbed another ghoul.

    We kept at it until the only corpses in the graveyard were the kind that didn’t move anymore. I looked at the tiefling and shuddered. She nodded in agreement, killing the dead is not something pleasant. That and the smell is enough to kill you.

    The tiefling pointed to a crypt and we headed there. The door was looked so I kicked it. The crypt was really old since not only did the door fall, it also dragged part of the wall with it. The roof would probably have collapsed but it didn’t, since there was no roof. Nor was there any coffin. Only a set of stairs leading into the catacombs. The tiefling went first and I followed.

    Luckily we didn’t need a torch because there were already a lot of lit torches on the walls. Of course that could also mean someone was expecting us. Not a good thing.

    Our journey was, surprisingly, uneventful. Until we came to a long, narrow corridor. The only thing that seemed wrong with it was the fact that all the brinks had a hole in the middle. I turned to the tiefling and she motioned for me not to move. Then she went in the corridor, going very slowly and checking for traps, since the place had to be trapped or something. She reached the end of the corridor and motioned for me to move. I put one foot in there and suddenly the whole is full of fire. I quickly jumped back and just as soon the flames disappeared. I looked down at my singed right boot. Smoke was still rising from it. I was just about to ask the tiefling what to do when I heard moaning behind me, a lot of moaning. I turned and saw more zombies then I could count coming toward me. I cursed and tried desperately to find a solution. The tiefling must have gotten her crossbow in her hand because a bolt zipped past my head and hit a zombie in the left knee. The thing didn’t seem to notice.

    I cursed again and kicked the first zombie to reach me. I kicked it in the chin and saw it’s head fly away. Then I slashed at another’s throat and saw it’s head fall, as the rotting neck gave away. I shuddered and stabbed another zombie in the eye. Then another bolt went past me and through another walking corpse.

    “Come on!” I heard the tiefling yell.

    I cut through another zombies arm and turned back to look at my companion.

    “What about the flames?”

    “It’s taken care of, just run!”

    Frozen Death cut it’s way through a zombies face, cutting of it’s jaw in the process, and then stabbed at another annoying corpse. I cursed again and ran down the corridor. Even though I expected to be roasted in a few seconds, nothing happened. I ran to the end of the corridor and saw the tiefling press a brick back into it’s slot. The corridor turned into a flaming hell. I couldn’t see the zombies but I didn’t care.

    “Come on.” She said and led the way deeper into the catacombs.

    The rest of the journey was hell. We literally had to carve a path through zombies, ghouls and skeletons. I never knew that so many of those buried had risen. When I die I’ll ask them to burn me. I am not going to risk being turned into a brainless walking corpse.

    We came upon what looked like an antechamber that was guarded by two ghouls and wight. The tiefling’s crossbow sang again and one of the ghouls had a new head ornament. The wight, it’s eyes glaring with malevolence, charged toward me. A second bolt found the other ghoul. It hit it in the chest, lifting it clear off the ground and slamming it against a wall. Not bothering with anything else, the wight tried to slash me with it’s sharp claws. I ducked and swept Frozen Death across the things stomach. It howled and stumbled past me, not even bothering to collect the guts that were flowing out of it. It showed it sharp teeth but before it could attack a rapier beheaded it. It’s head rolled toward me and I kicked it as hard as I could.

    I thanked the tiefling and we went through the door. Right into the layer of mind flayer and it’s vampire servant. The vampire was dressed in same clothes it had when it was put in it’s coffin. The black, nondescript clothes of an assassin. It grinned, showing those two long teeth they use open your neck, and grabbed the kama that hung at it’s belt. It stopped however when the mind flayer raised it’s left hand a little.

    “So you have finally come. Good.” Said a oily voice in my head. “Yes it was my vampire that killed that commoner. I was hoping they’d hang you but I see you managed to survive and then find me.”

    I looked at the mind flayer. It was dressed in black robes that, in certain places, looked like they were made from the skin of some poor creature. Around it’s neck it wore a necklace made from teeth. Considering all the sizes and shapes, I think they belong to every person the mind flayer has killed. Of course I couldn’t see all of the teeth because of the things tentacles. It’s head looked like a four tentacled octopus. And in it’s right hand it held a long ebony staff with a purple jewel on top.

    “It was I that tried to take the armor from the dragon.” The voice in my head continued “I sent the lich, the kobolds the goblins and orcs to take the armor. That the lich managed to recruit a hill giant was a bonus. The destruction of your mercenary band was pure accidental. At least as far as I’m concerned. What the lich told it’s minions is not my business.” The mind flayer pointed toward the tiefling and the vampire charged.

    “It’s nothing personal you see” said the voice “ but I need you to die. I want that armor. I want to make others like it and raise a great mind flayer army. With the Dragon Armor we would be invincible.”

    I seriously think the mind flayer was nuts.

    The tiefling, armed with a rapier and a dagger, meet the vampire in melee and found herself on the defensive as the vampire brought a second kama into the fight. I charged from behind, hoping to surprise the vampire, but just as Frozen Death stabbed forward, one of the kamas came around and parried. I took a step back as the second kama followed the first one, nearly opening my throat. The tiefling slashed with her rapier but the vampire brought both weapons in for a block. As the rapier neared flesh it met one of the kamas. Before the tiefling could pull back, the second kama crashed against the rapier, pining it. I took the opportunity and lunged at the vampire. It’s right foot hit me solidly in the chest and I hit the ground hard. The tiefling tried to hit the vampire in the groin but was blocked by the things left leg. More agile than the tiefling, the vampire’s right leg hit her. Already off balance the tiefling fell to the ground. The kamas didn’t move but the rapier did. As the tiefling tugged the rapier, the weapon broke. The vampire was about to bring both weapons down on my comrade when I charged it again. It turned and slashed twice with the kamas. I took a step back and looked at the two bloody lines crossing my chest. The vampire grinned again and came forward. It didn’t seem to notice when the tiefling threw the dagger she had at it’s back.

    With unbelievable speed the vampire turned and crossed the kamas before it’s chest. The dagger skipped off and clattered to the floor. The vampire seemed to get ready to kill the tiefling when it suddenly turned and leapt at me. Clever ploy. I brought Frozen Death in a wild parry that stopped one kama but the other slashed across my left thigh. I cursed again and prayed to Tempus for strength. Meanwhile the tiefling was back on her feet and had the other two daggers in her hands. She charged but the vampire blocked both the attacks. That’s when I lunged forward with all my speed. Frozen Death entered the vampires right thigh. The vampire hissed and brought one of it’s kama’s in a slashing attack across my face. I partially parried since the kama’s tip opened my right cheek. The tiefling used those few seconds to stab with one dagger while bringing her gauntleted fist around for a devastating hit. The vampire blocked the dagger but took the spiked gauntlet in the chin. It howled and increased it’s attack on the tiefling. She was backing away from the raging vampire, who’s jaw looked like it was chewed by a worg. The vampire was raining blow after blow and the tiefling was staggering under the blows. I wanted to aid her when I heard a chuckle come from behind me. I saw the mind flayer laughing, he was enjoying himself.

    I didn’t bother to aim as I threw Frozen Death. The blade kept spinning end over end until finally it’s tip found flesh. It buried itself hilt deep in the mind flayer’s forehead. With his blood pouring down his face the mind flayer fell to the floor and died. I turned toward the tiefling only to see the vampire stagger back. It stood still then fell to the floor as well, blood gushing out of the mortal wound. The tiefling, crossbow in hand, got up and looked at her handiwork. A silver bolt was sticking out of the vampires heart. It was dead for sure.

    “I’m glad that’s over.” She said.

    “Thanks for your help.”

    “Glad to help. The world is a better place with people like you in it.”

    “You mean warriors?”

    “No, I mean heroes.”

    And with that she turned and left just as mysteriously as she appeared in my life. I walked over to the mind flayer and pulled Frozen Death out of it’s head. I had to wipe the blade on the mind flayer’s robe because it was full of the things blood and brain. I sheathed Frozen Death and picked up the ebony staff. I didn’t know what it could do but I figured Andreea might find a use for it. Then I grabbed the dead mind flayer by the collar and began dragging it back to the surface.
     
  8. Kelvon Shadowmane Gems: 12/31
    Latest gem: Moonstone


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    [​IMG] Engrossing... :D :D :D Keep up the good work!
     
  9. Lord Garak Gems: 7/31
    Latest gem: Tchazar


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    Chapter 5 is here and if you think you saw Hirad get angry before wait 'till you see how stuborn he can be. Also, for some reason this chapter is more action packed than the previous ones. Don't know how that happened.Oh, and there's more to the Armor than you think.


    Rescue


    A year had past since my encounter with the mind flayer. After I told the militia that the mind flayer was responsible for the murder they told me to leave and never return to Westgate. That was the last time I saw the city. Well not quite. But there’s more to tell before I explain that one.

    I gave Andreea the ebony staff and she said it would be of great help. Apparently the staff has a lot off potent spells. Leave it to a mind flayer to a have a powerful enchanted staff.

    But while things were going well for us, the south saw more trouble. Luiren, the land of the halflings, was being invaded by a suspicious number of goblin tribes. Naturally the halflings called for help from outside. But they asked the kingdom of Dambrath to help. The very kingdom that wanted to conquer them. Naturally the queen of Dambrath agreed and sent troops into Luiren. The nearby kingdoms of Estagund and Var the Golden protested but couldn’t do anything about it. And the mages of Halruua remained silent. What was most curious was that the new queen declared that her consort would bear the title king and have all the power said title allowed. That coming from a kingdom ruled exclusively by women and were the men don’t have many, if any, privileges.

    I knew something was happening there but it was probably just political intrigue or some such. At least that’s what I thought.

    I took a step back and watched as the orc’s axe hit the ground and the overbalanced orc followed it down. In one swift motion I opened the orcs throat and blocked a swing from the second one. I was about to punch it in the face when the tip of an arrow appeared from it’s throat. The orc fell to the ground and Harry aimed and shot another one right in the groin. The orc’s howl was cut short when Elf ran past it, his scimitars cutting deep into the orc’s face. I turned and saw Andreea cast a fireball at another one of the wretched things. The fireball took the orc in the back and burned it to a crisp. Drako launched himself at another orc and his tail, which ended with a sharp barb, cut the orc’s face from right ear to left ear. The orc wasn’t dead yet so Drako’s claws and sharp teeth went to work on the orc’s face. I shuddered and looked at Stoneater. The yellow bearded dwarf was sitting on a orc’s back and was bashing the orc’s head into the ground. He had been doing that for almost five minutes so you can imagine that the orc didn’t have anything recognizable as a head anymore.

    I shook my head and looked as the last four orcs ran for their lives. We had heard that there was increasing orc activity around the Snowflake Mountains. So we went there in search of orcs. We had already cleared six caves when we came upon a large orc raiding party. After a quick fight the orcs ran into the caves and we followed them. We found their camp and attacked. Needless to say the orcs didn’t put up much of a fight. But even as I watched the survivors run I had a bad feeling. The camp smelled horrible, so I didn’t know they were coming. Didn’t hear them either since Stoneater was shouting at the orc with the bloody mess for a head.

    So I was not expecting a giant fist hitting my left leg with such force that the armor bent and the bone snapped with a tremendous noise. I yelled and dropped Killer Rage. But before I could hit the ground, two huge hands grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me into the nearest wall. I hit the wall so hard that I dented my helm enough that I couldn’t see a thing. That and I broke my nose. I wanted to curse or yell but just as I was sliding to the ground I was picked up again. This time whatever had me didn’t let go. It just kept bashing me against the wall. I could taste blood in my mouth and my nose was hurting more and more with each hit. I was vaguely wondering what my comrades were doing but all I could hear was the metallic crashing noise I made each time I hit the wall. Then the thing threw me to the ground. I hit hard enough to black out for a few seconds. When I opened my eyes I felt a huge foot on my chest and I couldn’t breath very well. The creature was trying to squish me. I managed to gather my wits just enough so that I grabbed Frozen Death. I couldn’t see a thing so I stabbed blindly. I felt the dagger enter flesh and heard a roar of pain. Then a huge fist smashed down on my left shoulder, flattening the armor and turning the bone to dust. This time I did yell as loud as I could. Then something hit me in the head and I blacked out again.

    When I opened my eyes I could feel a wolf skin blanket covering me and a lot of bandages as well. Then someone noticed I was awake and came toward me. When Andreea’s face filled my vision I couldn’t help but smile. Even if did hurt like hell. I tried to get up and see how badly my leg was but even lifting my head caused intense pain. Andreea gently pushed me back down.

    “Don’t get up, rest.”

    “What happened?” I managed to ask.

    “Four trolls came from behind you and before we could warn you or kill them they beat you pretty good.”

    I winced since I knew what a troll can do to someone. I was lucky they didn’t rip me to shreds.

    “Hope you got the bastards.”

    “Don’t worry I brought the roof on their heads.”

    I tried to laugh but I started coughing like mad. Finally when that was over I said.

    “Then why are we still in this dammed cave?”

    Andreea didn’t look at me when she told me why we were still in the cave. More orcs came and forced us deeper into the cave, so deep in fact we were lost. Before I could say anything else though she touched my forehead with her right hand and I fell asleep. And boy did I remember some things.

    I looked at what remained of the enemy army. After two days of fighting, the army from Zhentil Keep was almost spent. Only five hundred remained standing and we outnumbered them. Of course we were trying to keep the Zhents out of Cormyr so we were fighting for a just cause while the Zhents were fighting for Tempus knows what.

    I heard General Eldmuk give the order to attack and we charged. I saw the cavalry pick up speed and head toward the enemy right flank. I cheered and brought my tower shield in front when we were fifty feet away from the enemy troops. I heard the clash of metal on metal and the screams of the dying and knew that our cavalry had crashed into the enemy. I looked up and saw the rain of arrows our arches sent. I shuddered and ran on. I heard more screams, closer this time as the arrows found their target.

    Then I hit the enemy line with bone rattling force. It was all the more powerful as the men behind me pushed forward and the ones in front, the enemy, also pushed forward. I didn’t even have room to swing my sword or to fall to the ground should I die. I pushed hard against the man in front but I couldn’t knock him down since hundreds of his comrades pushed him toward me. Then I looked up to see a few fireballs gracefully descent toward the Zhents. I saw the bright flashes as they exploded, turning dozens of soldiers into living torches. And then I felt the man in front of me stumble. I pushed harder and he fell. The press of bodies was so great that I fell to the ground and got trampled on by those behind me. I felt a hand grab me by the collar and haul me up. I thanked Barlok and joined the fight.

    I turned and my sword cut through one man’s spine. As he fell more Cormyr soldiers and mercenaries surged forward. I went with them and almost got skewered by a spear. The man tried to impale again but a passing soldier cut his throat. I lunged at the closest Zhent and he parried my attack. He then came in with a cut meant to split my skull but I blocked it high and sent my foot in his groin. The soldier fell to the ground I split his skull. Before I could strike at another Zhent, I saw two men charge toward me. I knew I couldn’t kill them both but I charged them. Just as I reached them a knight rode behind them and his sword beheaded one of them. The other one was so shocked by the knight’s attack that he didn’t manage to avoid my desperate charge. I crashed into him but he stood his ground, refusing to go down. I brought my knee in his groin and as he fell my sword pierced his chest. I pulled my sword from the dead man and turned. Just in time to see a blade coming toward my face. I closed my eyes and expected to die but then I head a loud metallic sound. I opened my eyes to see Barlok’s greataxe cut through the man as if he was made of paper. I thanked him and rushed to aid a soldier that was being strangled by a Zhent. I reached them quickly and killed the Zhent. The soldier took his sword, threw a quick thanks my way, and rushed back into the chaos. I then rushed at a Zhent mage just as he was getting ready to cast. Before I could reach him however I saw an ice lance hit him. The mage was thrown back with the ice lance sticking out of his stomach. The field was soaked in blood but the battle continued. I saw a Zhent armed with a long spear charge a knight. The knight didn’t see him and impaled himself on the spear. The man then lifted the weapon, with the knight still on it, and brought it crashing down onto the head of a Cormyrean soldier. The Zhent didn’t have time to gloat as a acid fog formed around him. He screamed as his skin was being burned from him and ran away but the acid fog remained fixed on him.

    Then I saw General Eldmuk and his bodyguards crashing into the Zhents from behind. He cut through them like a hot knife through butter. Then he turned and charged them again and again. But by the third time they were expecting it. Just as the General was nearing them the Zhent mages let fly a couple of fireballs. The fireballs blasted the Generals horse. With his mount dead, and several bodyguards as well, the General gathered his remaining guards around him. He was hard pressed to survive because he was surrounded by Zhents. I spotted Duke Forwell and his guards trying to reach the General. But while Forwell’s charge was furious it wasn’t enough and soon Forwell found himself stopped by the stubborn Zhents. I ran toward Forwell’s position, killing a dazed Zhent just as he was getting up, when I saw the enemy general. A Dreadmaster of Bane. He was leading his Black Guard toward General Eldmuk. The General saw him and ordered his own guards to fight harder before the Dreadmaster reached them. Then multiple lightning blasts hit the Zhents pressuring General Eldmuk. The General was quick to order his men to charge the stunned enemy. But the Black Guards were quicker. They crashed into the Generals bodyguards, scattering them as if they were goblins. General Eldmuk turned and met the attacking Black Guards. He cut one down and wounded another when the Dreadmaster reached him.

    Meanwhile Duke Forwell had managed to get close to Eldmuk’s position and he urged his men for one more desperate effort. They charged into the enemy but the Zhents were stubborn and held their ground. And the Black Guard was massacring the Generals bodyguard. The General himself was fighting furiously to keep the Dreadmaster at bay. The Dreadmaster, who’s god Bane was reborn from the body of Iyachtu Xvim, was a terrible foe. He rained blow after blow until General Eldmuk had to call for help from his guards. But his guards were trying to survive the rage of the Black Guard. Then I turned and saw Kaimar leading the knights into a desperate charge to save General Eldmuk. The Zhents saw the charge and tightened their ranks. Then Barlok crashed into the Zhents battling against Duke Forwell. The half-orc scattered the Zhents with wild abandon. His greataxe cutting men by the dozen. I shouted to the nearest soldiers and rushed to Barloks aid. Our attack was more than what the Zhents could take and that group fled. Duke Forwell ordered everyone to charge the Black Guard and the men did. Then the knights led by Kaimar slammed into the enemy. Barlok and me attacked the Zhents flank and cut through them with ease. With resistence faltering the knights charged again and this time they broke through the Zhents. They rode the enemy into the ground.

    But there was still the Black Guard to be taken care of. Soldiers swarmed around the Dreadmaster but he used his huge mace to crush any who dared fight him. General Eldmuk ran for the safety of his troops and was lost to my eyes. Duke Forwell however was leading another charge. This one against the Dreadmaster. I saw the Dreadmaster’s mace sweep away those soldiers and knights that came near. As if to prove that he was a deadly enemy the Dreadmaster pointed at Duke Forwell and a lightning bolt shot out of his outstretched finger. The bolt hit Duke Forwell and threw him off his horse. The Dreadmaster laughed and his mace hit a soldier right on the top of his head making it explode and splatter everyone with blood and brains. Another soldier threw a javelin at the Dreadmaster but he picked up a Zhent soldier and used him as a shield. Then he threw the dead Zhent. I ducked as a Black Guard tried to cut me in two and my sword went for his heart. The Black Guard parried my attack and swung his blade to the side. The blade cut through a soldiers arm and ended it’s arc by hacking into a wooden shield. Just as the Black Guard brought the sword for another sweep I charged in and my sword pierced the Guards armor. The sword entered a lung and I pulled it back out. The Black Guard fell to his knees and I cut his throat. I saw Barlok cut down another Black Guard and then I saw Kaimar and a few knights charge the Dreadmaster. Even over then sounds of battle I could hear Kaimars battlecry. The Dreadmaster’s mace smashed into Kaimar’s horse, killing it. Then the knights were upon him. Two knights managed to skewer the Dreadmaster with their lances but that didn’t kill him. With a roar of anger the Dreadmaster sent a fireball after the two knights. One of them got away but the other was turned into a living torch. He screamed as the fire consumed him and his horse. His screams were inhuman and thankfully someone put an arrow through the guy before he could drive us crazy with those screams. Then the Dreadmaster charged to the place Duke Forwell fell. He ran down anyone who stood in his path. But before he could reach the fallen Duke he saw General Eldmuk. The General was leading another cavalry charge against the Black Guard. The Dreadmaster crushed the skull of a soldier and headed toward the General when our mages finally cast. The Dreadmaster was engulfed in flames. Flames that burned so hot they might as well have came from the Nine Hells. Roaring in denial the Dreadmaster swatted aside more soldiers but the fires brought him to his knees. Then the soldiers attacked. They jumped on his back and stabbed again and again until all you could see was a mass of angry soldiers stabbing at something and one huge arm reaching for the sky. That’s when he cast his last spell. A huge lightning bolt came straight down on the soldiers butchering the Dreadmaster. Their screams were drowned out by the thunder of the blast.

    But one voice was heard after that. It was General Eldmuk shouting “Victory!”

    I opened my eyes and smiled. I dreamed about the second full scale battle I took part in. The battle against the forces of Zhentil Keep. I looked to my right and saw Andreea. She was preparing a potion of some kind. When she finished it she knelt by me.

    “Drink this.”

    I drank the potion. Luckily it was tasteless, I once had to drink some healing potions that were foul tasting.

    “How do you feel?”

    I tried to move my left arm, it moved a little but the pain that hit me was way to big.

    “I’m somewhat better.”

    “Don’t try to move.”

    “Believe me I won’t.”

    “Good because I only recently managed to stop your internal bleeding.”

    “What?”

    “You were bleeding internally. That’s why you kept coughing up blood.”

    “I don’t remember that.”

    “Thankfully you were sleeping. You lost a lot of blood so you’re going to feel weak for a while. The potion I just gave should help you recover some strength but you should still rest.”

    Her right hand moved toward my forehead.

    “Before you cast that sleeping spell could you at least tell me how long I was out.”

    “Four days.” She said, after which she touched my forehead and again I fell asleep.

    This time I didn’t have any dreams. When I woke up I found Elf sitting next to me. I could see the worry on his face. The second he saw I was awake he smiled and said.

    “Ah, I see our expert on how to get beaten up by trolls is awake.”

    I chuckled and said.

    “Good to you see too. I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”

    “Why should I have?”

    “You looked worried about something.”

    “Nay, you are mistaken. I was thinking about something.”

    I slowly got up on my elbows, the pain was still enormous but I was stubborn.

    “So what were you thinking about?”

    “You.” Came the lame reply.

    When he saw my confused expression he added.

    “And your feelings for Andreea.”

    When I didn’t say anything he continued.

    “Don’t try to deny it. I’ve been watching you for over a year now. It’s obvious you like her and I’m surprised you didn’t do anything about it. I mean it’s not like it’s something unnatural. Does she even know?”

    “I don’t think she knows and I’m going to leave it that way.”

    Elf looked confused.

    “Why? If you like her then why don’t you tell her?”

    “Two very good reasons. The first is that I want her to find someone better than me.”

    “Even if it hurts you?”

    “Yes, even then. Not like I’m not used to that sort of pain. And the second reason is that women were never interested in me.”

    “Let me see if I understood this. You want her to find someone better than you. You, the man who serves a ancient order that is involved with dragons and who fights evil wherever it shows it’s ugly face? What am I missing here?”

    “You’re missing the part about my death, which will probably be at the tip of a sword.”

    “Oh and you think Andreea doesn’t risk her life or something, after all she could also die at the tip of a sword.”

    “No she won’t.”

    “How can you bee so certain?”

    “Simple. I’ll get in the way and take blow.”

    “You’d give your life for her?”

    “Of course I would. I’d also give my life for any one of you.”

    “You’ve done this before?”

    “Getting in the way of a killing blow? Yep. That’s how I got the scar on my belly, only it wasn’t a sword, it was an axe.”

    “Bet that hurt.”

    “You have no idea.”

    “And the second reason is that women were never interested in you?”

    “Yep.”

    “Tell me, do you have the slightest idea how you walk when you’re alone on the street?”

    “Nope.”

    “I saw you once and you scared me. You had that arrogant look in your eyes, the one red dragons have, the kind that says “You pathetic mortals”. And with your height you were looking down on everyone and your body language said only one thing “Leave me alone or die”. I tell you, you looked as fierce as a red dragon, if I didn’t know you, I would have stayed far away from you.”

    “Then why don’t I see that reaction in people?”

    “Because you only walk around at night since you practice with the sword all day long. And when you’re with us… well you seem more at ease.”

    “Well, I’ll take your word for it but even if I do walk like that, believe me I don’t do it consciously. You know I’m not arrogant or anything.”

    “No, you’re not. You’re not humble either but which one of us is?”

    I laughed and looked around. Cristi was sitting next to the cooking pot, the one thing he was good at. Harry was sleeping and Andreea … was no were to be seen. Neither was Stoneater and Drako.

    “Elf, were is Andreea, Drako and Stoneater?”

    Elf didn’t look at me when he said they went to explore the area in front of us.

    “And when did they leave?” I asked, my voice becoming angry as I started to suspect the answer.

    “Two days ago.”

    When I yelled “WHAT?” I think that every orc on this side of the Spine of the World heard me. I even managed to wake Harry, who thought we were under attack. When I told Elf that we were going after our comrades he started to protest. Andreea had left instructions saying I should rest another six days. But I was determined.

    “Search my backpack, the Dragon Armor is in there. Get it and bring over here.”

    I felt my blood turn to ice as I tried to imagine what could possibly have happened to her. I know orcs like to torture prisoners and that thought brought another sentiment to the surface. Anger, an intense inferno of anger. I swore that if anything happened to her I would kill those orcs slowly, one piece at a time. And it was that anger, and that fear for her, that gave me the strength to get up and ignore the pain. Elf left the Dragon Armor next to me and went to pack his gear. I left the bandages on and searched the backpack for my two amulets. I took the first one, a silver disc with the imagine of two human hands bound at the wrists and put a silver chain through it’s hole. Then I took the second silver disc, this one had a blazing silver sword on a blood red field engraved and painted on it, and repeated the procedure. I then put my head through both chains and left the amulets to hang at the base of my neck. The first amulet is for Ilmater, god of endurance, suffering, martyrdom and perseverance, while the second is for Tempus, god of war. The two gods I pray to. I pray to Tempus because I’m a warrior and I pray to Ilmater because I would sacrifice my life if it saved another, because I have suffered so that others would be spared the pain.

    Then I started to don the Dragon Armor. I managed by myself because the Armor was, somehow, helping me. I only had to touch my shoulders with the shoulder guards and these would simply shift onto my shoulders and then link with the other pieces of the armor. I touched the back of my hand with one gauntlet and watched as it parted and slipped around my hand and then it was on. The Armor seemed alive somehow. And last time I wore it the inside was just warm. Now it was warm and soft, like skin, and it felt perfectly normal to me.

    “The more you wear it, the more it knows about you. About how it can help you.” Said the dragons voice in my head.

    I didn’t say anything about that. Best just to be glad for the help. Strangely it didn’t bother me to know that the dragon was watching me.

    As I gathered the armor’s replica and put it in my backpack I noticed the pain had subsided. Apparently it could also heal me. I was starting to wonder if there was anything this armor couldn’t do when I realized why it was so powerful. Since it was made from the scales of all the dragon species it must posses all of their strength and powers. Of course that didn’t make me invincible, it only made me very, very hard to kill.

    When I had all my gear ready I took Frozen Death in my left hand and stared at it. I looked at the crystal clear, curved blade and smiled. Then I drew Killer Rage from it’s sheath and told the others to have their weapons ready. Then we went to find our friends.

    After a few hours of walking we heard sounds coming from behind us. I signaled to the others to hide. We only had to wait a few minutes before a large group of orcs came around the corner. I raised a clenched fist and waited for the orcs to near my position. When the orcs where were I wanted them I opened my fist and brought it down. Harry got up from behind his rock and fired an arrow at the closest orc. Then Elf and I got up and charged the orcs.

    A few orcs tried to run away but Elf blocked their retreat. The orcs tried to rush past him but his scimitars opened their necks with ease. I swept Frozen Death across an orc’s face and then punched another in the face. The orc staggered and Killer Rage found it’s heart. Harry was firing arrow after arrow and with each shot an orc fell. Two orcs tried to bring their crossbows to bear but one got an arrow in the eye for his trouble and the other decided to run. Only to be cut down by Elf. The stupid orcs couldn’t decide whether to fight or to flee. Those that tried to run only managed to block the path of those who wanted to fight. I yelled a curse and jumped into the middle of the orc group. I kicked one orc in the groin and head butted another orc while Killer Rage tore through skin and bone and beheaded a third orc. I cursed again and used Frozen Death to sever an orc’s spine. The creature fell to the ground and another orc tripped on it. Before the orc could get up I trimmed his head at about eye level. I turned and saw Elf slash with his blades and cut off an orc’s arms. The creature tried to run but Elf stabbed with both scimitars. The deadly blades pierced the orc’s neck and the creature died. Another orc tried to take Elf from behind but the paladin turned with amazing speed and gutted his opponent.

    Three orcs came at me with their axes raised. I nodded and waited for them to make the first move. The first to reach me tried an overhead blow that I blocked high with Frozen Death while Killer Rage cut his legs out from under him. The other two tried to flank me but I blocked both their attacks. The second orc was surprised when Killer Rage cut right through the head of his axe. Before he could think of running I brought Killer Rage in a slashing attack that cut the orc from hip to hip. The ruined body fell while the legs stood for a few more seconds. But Killer Rage didn’t end it’s arc until it crashed against the other orc’s ribs. The orc yelled but before he knew it Killer Rage had exited it’s victim. The orc tried to stop the blood pouring out of it’s ruined body but didn’t succeed. I shook my head and kicked another orc in the chin. The creature fell on it’s back and Elf killed it. I turned and saw two more headed toward me. When they realized I saw them they stopped, unsure of how to proceed. I took away all their options. I charged them and buried Frozen Death in one’s throat, the blade pining the orc to the caves wall. The second tried to attack but I grabbed it by the throat with my left hand and raised the orc over my head and began to crush the life out of it. The orc tried to use his axe but Killer Rage cut through the axe making it useless. The orc continued to struggle while I tightened my grip until I heard the cartilage and the bone snapping and the orc’s head hung limply. I tossed it aside like some broken doll and retrieved Frozen Death. After that I wiped it on one of the orcs.

    I sheathed my blades and looked around at the carnage. Orc body parts littered the ground, which was thick with their blood. Elf was killing does orcs that still drew breath and Harry was retrieving his arrows. Cristi appeared from behind a rock and all blood drained from his face when he saw the mess we made. I went toward the orcs that had the crossbows. I picked up one and took the bolts and walked over to Cristi. Then I shoved the items in his arms and told him to make himself useful. Then I wanted a little time alone so I could think. I could feel my heart beating faster. I knew that the strength and healing the Armor provided would keep me going but I decided that once we rescued our friends I would take a few days to rest. But not until we rescued them, not until Andreea is safe. I won’t rest until then and not a thousand orcs can stop me.

    I signaled the group to follow me.

    I don’t know for how long we kept walking when I smelled something foul and Harry said.

    “What is that stench? It smells vaguely familiar.”

    “I don’t want to know were in your life you encountered something so disgusting.” Said Elf.

    That’s when I remembered how Harry smelled when I first encountered him and what he said it was.

    “Trolls!” I yelled.

    As if in answer to my warning they came, three of the ugly, smelly things. Their hide looked like bark and long arms hanged down to their knees but they were fast. They came shouting all sort of things in their tongue and tried to grab us. Harry fired an arrow and one troll yelled in surprise. Cristi ran behind a rock and started to load the crossbow while Elf was using his scimitars to keep one of the monsters at bay. Meanwhile the third troll came straight at me. I didn’t hesitate and Killer Rage cut right through the trolls arm. The troll yelled and took a few steps back. It realized I had a weapon that could actually kill it since the acid on my blade would prevent it from regenerating limbs and sealing wounds in seconds. The troll picked up a boulder and threw it toward me. I swept Killer Rage before me and the boulder fell at my feet. The troll looked around for more things to throw when I charged it. Frozen Death plunged in it’s belly and blood started flowing. The troll bashed me with it’s remaining hand but the Armor took all the impact and I didn’t feel a thing. Just for the pure pleasure of it I sliced through the trolls legs with Killer Rage. The troll fell but I was on it in a second. I let all my anger pour into my arms as I continued to stab with Frozen Death and Killer Rage. The troll yelled as the two blades pierced it’s thick hide again and again and a pool of blood began to form beneath the troll. I continued to stab it even after it died. I kept at it until all that was left was a mass of raw, bloody meat.

    Then I turned and saw Harry and Cristi send arrows into the second troll. The monster had two bolts sticking out of it’s chest, an arrow in it’s left shoulder and two more arrows in it’s forehead. I sheathed Killer Rage and charged the troll. The creature didn’t notice me and I jumped on it’s back, Frozen Death biting deep. The troll yelled and tried to grab me but he couldn’t, since he kept doubling over from the pain. I aimed higher and Frozen Death entered the back of the troll’s head. I hit it again and again until I made a hole big enough to stick my fists in. I stabbed again, burying Frozen Death up to the hilt. Then I grabbed the edge of one wound and tugged with all my strength. The flesh came away and the troll howled some more but I didn’t care. I started tearing it apart, piece by piece, with my bear hands. The troll was still howling when I plunged my right hand into the enormous hole I made. I grabbed the first thing I felt and started pulling. My hand came out with a bone, that also dragged other parts of the troll with it. I threw it away and resumed my grisly work. The troll was on it’s knees when I ripped it’s lungs to shreds and drew Killer Rage. The enchanted blade went to work on the dying troll and in a few minutes the second troll was also nothing more than a mass of raw, bloody meat.

    Elf was using only one of his scimitars, since his left arm was hanging limply, to keep the third troll at bay. There were four fingers and three arms on the floor but the troll kept regenerating it’s severed limbs. I watched him score another hit on the troll’s chest where a red line appeared. But before it could start bleeding the wound sealed itself. Elf cursed and continued to battle the troll. The troll was so concerned with Elf that it didn’t notice me. At least not until I ran past it and Killer Rage spilled it’s guts. The troll howled in anger but I quickly turned and stabbed with Frozen Death. Elf wisely retreated. I continued to run around the troll, my blades cutting endlessly, until it dropped to it’s knees. Then I closed in and Killer Rage went to work. I butchered the third troll as well.

    I turned to look at my companions. Their faces were pale and they looked horrified at the shredded trolls. I don’t think I looked any better. My blades were full of gore and my gauntlets as well. I went to sit down and took a piece of cloth from my backpack and used it to clean my weapons and armor. Then I just stood there. My heart was beating fast again and my arms felt tired, also the pain had returned and I was sweating, and not from the effort. I don’t know how long I sat there but eventually Elf came and sat down next to me. He used some cloth and made a crude sling for his left arm.

    “Broken?” I asked.

    He just nodded. We sat there like that for a while after which he said.

    “How do you feel?”

    “Not so good.”

    “Andreea did say you should rest six more days.”

    “When I donned the armor I felt a lot better. But I was a bit tired after we fought those orcs and now…” I just shook my head.

    “The Armor gave you some strength but you must be using more of it then you know.”

    “And what does that mean?”

    “It means that if you keep this up you just might die.”

    “Nothing new there.”

    Elf shook his head and asked.

    “Don’t you care even a little if you die. I mean aren’t you afraid of death?”

    “Nope.”

    Elf motioned with his good hand for me to continue.

    “Remember that I pray to Ilmater. My life is dedicated to protecting others. And right now there is a dwarf and a mage that could really use our help.”

    Elf stared at the dead trolls.

    “You would have made a fine paladin,” he said “ do you know that?”

    I shook my head and reminded him that paladins of Ilmater are known to be humble. And I’m anything but humble.

    “True.” Elf started laughing. When I asked him about it he said. “I was trying to imagine you humble. The image that comes to mind is just stupid.” He was laughing so hard he had stop and breath deep for a few moments before he could continue what he was saying. “And there is one more thing that would make you a terrible paladin.”

    “And what’s that?” I asked with a look of profound hurt on my face.

    “That smart mouth of yours.”

    We both started laughing like mad. Of course Elf’s comments were lame, at best, but we needed a way of getting rid of the stress. And laughing is best way to make even a hopeless situation look a little better. Of course Harry and Cristi stared at us as if we were mad.

    “You know what I think?” said Elf.

    “Nope.”

    “I think we should get going.” He got up and offered me his hand. I took it and he pulled me up. “Our friends need us.” Then he turned and told the other two to keep up.

    A warrior who could drop dead from the effort, a paladin with a broken arm, a ranger who fights only as long as he has arrows and a thief who can’t steal something even from a blind man. We certainly were a group of tough adventurers.

    We kept walking for hours when Cristi, who was acting as a forward scout, came running back. I was expecting to see a group of orcs coming after him but he wasn’t being chased. But he did keep blabbering about something. Not that any of us could make any sense of his ranting, mainly because he was talking way to fast and sounded like a crazed goblin.

    “Would you please shut up.” Said Harry.

    Cristi did so and after a few moments we started questioning him about what he saw.

    “It looked a floating sphere with a big eye in the middle and a lot of smaller eyes on stalks.”

    “You forgot to mention the big mouth with dagger like teeth.” Said Harry.

    Before Cristi could ask him how he knew, Elf interrupted. “A beholder.” He said.

    “Now what? I’m not anxious to fight a beholder.” Said Harry.

    “Can’t we sneak past it?”

    We all looked at Cristi as if he just turned into an orc.

    “Why do you think it has so many eyes?” asked Elf.

    “Oh.” Was all Cristi could think of.

    “I guess we do this the hard way.” Said Harry.

    The beholder was in a big, circular chamber with four exits. Harry and Cristi crouched at the mouth of the exit we came through. They had their weapons ready, all they were waiting for was for me and Elf to finally decide to commit suicide. Because that’s what attacking a beholder is considered, suicide.

    Elf nodded and we charged the beholder. It didn’t seem surprised, it only turned four of the eye stalk in our direction and four rays of destruction came toward us. We both managed to duck and in that instant Harry and Cristi fired. The arrow and the bolt were both vaporized by another two eye rays. The beholder just stood there, it’s eyes tracking all of us and firing at us. Harry and Cristi were virtually pinned down by the blasts while Elf was ducking and dodging and couldn’t even take a step in the beholders direction. And I tried to dodge but the ray hit me right in the chest. I was slammed into the caverns wall with enough force to crack the stone. Lucky me I had the Armor. I slid to the ground and before I could gather my wits another blast hit me. And then another and another and so on. I lost count of the blasts but after a while they didn’t seem to bother me at all. I got up an charged the beholder. It looked surprised and quickly fired all of it’s eye rays at me. The blast slowed me down a little but that was it. Harry and Cristi fired their weapons and the beholder howled as an arrow and a bolt took out two of it’s eyes. Before I could get to it however, a spear bounced of the back of my armor and I turned to see some twenty goblins. I charged them.

    Meanwhile Elf managed to get close enough and he plunged his scimitar deep into the beholders central eye. The monstrosity fell to the ground and Elf turned toward me. His face went pale when he saw how I was slaughtering the goblins. The goblins tried to use their spears to keep me at a distance but I didn’t care. Killer Rage cut through a goblins face and stopped in the chest of another while Frozen Death was stabbing with wild abandon. Goblins cried out in fear and goblins died. After I killed about ten of them the rest decided that being a live coward was better then being a corpse. They fled and I let them go. I didn’t care about slaughtering goblins. That and I felt very tired. I could also feel blood in my mouth. I walked over to the nearest wall and sat down, while resting my back against the wall. Elf came over and crouched next to me. He looked worried.

    “What’s wrong?”

    I just sat there for a few seconds. Standing still seemed to lessen the pain. Finally, when I could stand the pain I answered.

    “I think I’m closer to death than you could guess. I feel blood in my mouth and my left shoulder and leg hurt like hell.”

    Elf shook his head.

    “The Armor may have been to preoccupied to protect you from the beholder, so the pain is back. That and your veins must have ruptured again. Andreea did say you should rest six more days.”

    “She doesn’t have six days.”

    “How can you bee so certain?”

    “She was captured by orcs, wasn’t she.?”

    “We can’t be certain that’s what happened and …” Elf stopped when he realized it was pointless. He knew I wouldn’t stop until she was safe. He helped me up and we continued our journey. Harry was using his tracking skills to follow Andreea and Stoneater’s footprints. The fact that these were surrounded by orc footprints was not good.

    “Can I ask you something?” I said to Elf.

    “You just did.” Came the reply.

    I rolled my eyes and was about to say something rude when Elf told me go ahead and ask.

    “It’s sort of personal.”

    “Hirad you always ask questions that have nothing to do with you.” Elf was more amused than annoyed.

    “Have you ever loved someone?”

    “Now why in the world do you want to know that?”

    I shrugged. Truth be told I was just trying to pass the time.

    “Yes, I have a lover.” Came the half annoyed, half amused reply. “But I haven’t seen her for over five years now. I miss her.”

    “Five years doesn’t sound like much for a race that lives for centuries.”

    “No, it isn’t much. But I’m only ninety years old.”

    When he saw my expression he said.

    “Oh, don’t give me that shocked look. I know you’re faking it.”

    “Wow. I thought you were way older than that.”

    “Thanks a lot.” Even though his tone was upset, he was smiling.

    “Wait.” I said. “I thought your equivalent for our eighteen years was a hundred and twenty?”

    “Of course it is but don’t be a dolt. When an elf reaches eighteen years he is still considered a child by us but he is given tasks to perform. An elf that is forty years old is still a child, by our standards, but he has exactly the same duties as a human that is forty. Get it?”

    “Yep. So why haven’t you seen her in five years?”

    “Do you ever give up?”

    “You know I don’t. Now are you going to tell me or what?”

    “Might as well.” Elf’s eyes lost focus, as if he was staring into the past. “I had to go to the temple of Mystra to train to become a paladin. That meant I didn’t have any time to go see her. I wonder what she’s doing now.”

    “What was her name?”

    Elf looked at me as if I was about to steal her from him. Which is ridicules of course.

    “Oh come on. It’s not like I’m going to steal her or something. Human women aren’t interested in me, I’m not even going to bother with elven ones.”

    “Maybe you should try dwarven women.” Said Elf with a grin.

    I rolled my eyes.

    “Her name is Anaviel. Sweet, fair Anaviel.” Elf was thinking so hard about her that he seemed to be somewhere else. He stopped talking and kept dreaming about his lover. If he ran head first into a stalactite it would have come as no surprise. I shrugged and said nothing more.

    We walked in silence for a while when suddenly Harry motioned for us to hide. There were a lot of big boulders around the cave walls and we hid behind those. We stood there and watched ten goblins leading about a hundred orcs. They were going the same way we came from. It was clear that the orcs were not going to expect us to attack their main camp or they wouldn’t have sent all those dolts to try and find us. After the orcs were far enough away we continued our journey.

    Eventually we came upon a crude door, guarded by two orcs. Harry and Cristi fired and the orcs died. We went inside and found ourselves in a large chamber filled with sleeping cots and cooking pots. Thankfully it was empty. We kept searching the cavern complex until Harry noticed a small tunnel that went up. We followed it and came to a outcropping overlooking another large chamber. This one had a few tables, cluttered with all sort of things, and was full of orcs. To be more precise there were about forty orcs, three mind flayers, a bugbear and our missing friends. They looked like they were in a trance of some sort and one of the mind flayers was walking around them.

    “We eats them!” said the bugbear.

    I couldn’t hear what the mind flayers said in response but I heard one orc say.

    “But boss ain’t here. We not tell boss and boss not know.”

    Again the mind flayers said something telepathically.

    “Bah! What would boss want with skinny human?” said the bugbear, pointing all the time at Andreea.

    “Then we eats the dwarf!” cried out one orc. Others cheered at that idea. Orcs and dwarfs are natural enemies.

    One of the mind flayers, with a big scar were the right eye should have been, began waving his arms and the orcs looked on with confusion. Then an arrow flew past my head and took one of the mind flayers in the head. Two seconds after that a bolt took the second mind flayer. The third one, the one with the scar, didn’t want to find out what was happening. He opened a dimensional door and stepped through it. With the mind flayers gone, Andreea, Drako and Stoneater woke up. The dwarf didn’t waste any time, he punched the first orc he could reach.

    Elf and me jumped down right in the middle of the orc group. I was sweating and hurting like hell but I didn’t care. I hacked my way through the orcs until I reached Andreea. Just in time because an orc was swinging his axe toward her head. The orc was grinning, expecting to see blood on his blade but his expression turned to one of disbelief when his axe bounced of my shoulder guard. That expression was frozen on the orcs face as I slashed with Killer Rage, opening the orc from left hip to right hip. Then I turned to Andreea and gave her Frozen Death, hilt first. She took it and said.

    “Thanks.”

    “Anytime” I replied. Then I was back among the orcs, my blade cutting through anything that got in it’s way. More than one orc raised a wooden shield only to find that his shield bearing arm was lying in a bloody pool by his feet. I was making my way toward the bugbear. Meanwhile Andreea and Stoneater were trying to get to the tables where their gear was while Drako flew circles around the orcs heads. And Elf was guarding their back. Even with only one arm the elf was deadly. He ducked and dodged and his blade always drew blood. And Harry and Cristi kept firing at the orcs. A few orcs took up bows and responded in kind. I turned and Killer Rage cut right through an orcs brain case. I ignored the dead orc and watched Stoneater grab his warhammer. With a roar of pure pleasure he smashed the first orc he could find right in the chest. The orc was thrown a few meters back but the raging dwarf kept swinging and with each swing more orcs fell. Elf jumped above Stoneater and used his scimitar to protect the dwarfs flank. Harry and Cristi decided to join us and jumped down. I couldn’t see them anymore but I was busy with the bugbear. The creature tried to flatten my head with it’s morningstar but it missed. Considering how I was feeling I decided to try to avoid heavy blows. I closed in tried to stab it but just then an orc got in the way. I skewered the orc and ducked as the bugbear brought the morningstar in a slashing attack that would have bashed my head. Instead it bashed an orc right in the head. I swung with Killer Rage but the bugbear brought his weapon in time to parry my attack. Or so it thought. Killer Rage cut right through the morningstar and before the astonished bugbear could figure out what happened I launched my left foot in his jaw. It stumbled and I disemboweled it.

    Something flashed behind me and I turned to see Andreea send a green, foggy, dart toward an orc. The dart hit the orc and disappeared. But the orc started to howl in pain and began to bleed from his mouth, eyes, ears and nose. He fell to the ground, a pool of blood forming around him. I beheaded another orc and headed toward my comrades. I could see Harry and Cristi among them. Harry was clutching his side and I could see his clothes were stained with blood. Cristi had an arrow stuck in his left thigh and blood was running down his pants. I looked at the others. Elf was bleeding from a cut to his broken arm, Stoneater had a dozen cuts but he ignored them and continued to kill orcs with gleeful abandon, Drako’s right wing was torn and the pseudodragon was sitting on Andreea’s shoulder and Andreea had a cut on her forehead and her hair was plastered to her face from the blood coming from another wound to the head.

    Elf was protecting the dwarf’s right flank so I came from the left. I could see more orcs entering the chamber. I kicked an orc in the head and the creature got in front of Stoneater. The dwarf bashed it with his warhammer, sending the orc Elf’s way. The elven paladin used his scimitar to cut the orcs throat. I chuckled and Killer Rage gave another orc a hair cut. Then I heard Andreea casting. Suddenly we were in a bluish sphere. The orcs kept hitting it but to no avail. Then Andreea raised the ebony staff. And the air outside our bubble turned to flame. The entire cavern complex was turned into the world’s biggest cooking pot. The flames killed everything from orcs to bats. Later we would find out that Andreea’s spell had turned every cave in the Snowflake Mountains into a flaming hell.

    Two days later I was resting in the nearest temple. I promised Andreea not to get up until the week was over. Still she thanked me for coming after her. After which she berated me about the fact that I could have died. I decided not to argue the point.

    The good thing was that the bubble that protected us also saved a lot of maps and orders that the bugbear had received. I looked at them and found out that the plans were for an attack on the nearest settlement, Riatavin. But something was not right with the plan. The part that I saw suggested that another force would also join in the attack. Bu there was no mention, anywhere, about another force. Also the orders that the bugbear had, were weird. They were clearly written by a human but it was as if he understood what kind of orders a bugbear might follow and what not. And then there were the mind flayers. What did they want with Andreea? Could this be an attempt by the mind flayers to establish some sort of empire? I really didn’t know. But I did find a scroll that suggested the mind flayers where based somewhere near Zhentil Keep. And there is only on mind flayer stronghold in that area.

    And then there was the news from the south. A rebellion had started in the kingdom of Var the Golden. The rebels said they wanted to become part of Dambrath. Durpar and Estagund tried to help their neighbor to stop the rebellion but then troops from Dambrath attacked all three kingdoms. Where did Dambrath get such a large army from? No one knows, but there are rumors that the Dambrath army is made of half-orcs or drow. But those were just rumors. Still we decided that when we were all healed we would head toward a mind flayer stronghold near Zhentil Keep.
     
  10. Kelvon Shadowmane Gems: 12/31
    Latest gem: Moonstone


    Joined:
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    /me is allready preparing a few gallons of :coffee: in anticipation of Chapter 6! ...and the coming night, of course...
     
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