The dwarf gripped his axe tightly as unearthly moans came from the inky blackness that surrounded him. Known for his excellent hearing, Doran Firebeard could identify many creatures in the depths just by the sound of their movement. However, as he slowly and silently trudged alone in this dank place, he could recognize virtually none of the strange and chilling sounds that echoed through the air.
Doran silently cursed again the fake floor that he and his three friends had fallen down, taking them far deeper into the dungeon than any other person had ventured and returned to the town to tell of it. They were just about to head back to the town for a well earned rest when Doran had recognized the uneasy shuffling, and moaning of a ghoul. They knew that another group of dungeon adventurers had placed a bounty on a creature around this area, one of their friends had fallen prey to the ghoul, but it was distracted by an amulet that fell out of the warrior's pack as he fell, occupying it for long enough to allow the fallen warrior's friend to carry him away from the creature and then back to the safety of the town.
The reward seemed well worth the risk, and the heroes steadied their nerves as they charged through the door to attack the ghoul. The ghoul was evidently prepared, and several shuman munsae shambled towards them as they pushed forwards at the evil undead monster. Brick "InTheHead" the ogre swung his mighty two handed sword Menghus, a weapon created to slay undead, and killed two beasts with a massive sweeping attack. Doran killed one with a swift overhead strike, but two shumans attacked him in retaliation from his right, and one managed to tear into his arm as he lifted his shield to block the raking claws of the second.
Pushed hard against the wall, Doran kept his shield up to deflect the attacks of his assailants, waiting for the right moment to strike his enemies. A large bolt of electrical energy shot through the air in front of him, and the two abominations fell to the floor from the lightning that issued from the hands of Kathra Iechant. The destructive blue bolt continued through three more of the undead, felling one, and injuring the others so they reeled in agony, allowing Brick ample time to live up to his name and remove the heads of both shuman munsae.
The bolt sped towards Ferrin Darkblade, who by some unknown sense knew what was about to happen and dived to his right, rolling on his side and coming to his feet in a fluid motion in front of the ghoul, and effortlessly avoided the attacks of the ghastly undead monster. Ferrin's hands, stained red by the magic dust spread over them swung again and again at the ghoul, making it recoil as the blur of his hands repeatedly struck at the few weak points of its undead body.
The ghoul moved backwards in some attempt to stop the onslaught it was facing, making pitifully weak retaliatory attacks in the hope of scoring a lucky hit. As the rest of the party moved to help finish off the ghoul, a horrid evil grin broke out on his awful features as the floor beneath the four of them gave way, and they plummeted down towards a unseen floor far below them.
Kathra managed to cast a spell to slow their descent, and they landed
softly on what felt like dirt in almost pitch black darkness. "Need
lots of light," said Brick. Kathra started to weave a pattern in
the air when Doran stopped her. "No. Only a small light, we
don't want to attract unnecessary attention." Kathra acknowledged
Doran's advice with a nod, and a moment later, a small light illuminated
their immediate area.
The light did little to help their vision or navigation, as there appeared to be little form to this part of the dungeon. The whole area seemed devoid of landmarks, just an endless barren of darkness, hiding unknown horrors in its shadow. Brick shouldered his massive two handed sword, instead grabbing his mythinite shield from his backpack, and drawing a sword that produced small flickers of flame from its golden blade as they continued through the eerie gloom.
A sudden flash of light blinded them as a robed figure appeared in front of them. Glancing at Kathra, the figure quickly bunched his hand into a fist, and rolled his wrist around three times, and threw his arm forward as he opened his hand, unleashing a huge scorching mass of flame at her. Ferrin ran at Kathra and knocked her to the ground, but flame burned his back badly as they tumbled to the ground.
Meanwhile the figure waved his fingers again, and magical sparkles of light flew at Brick enveloping him and causing him to fall to the ground in violent convulsions. Doran moved to help his friend, and the mage seemed to pause for a moment to consider something, then again turned his attention to Kathra and Ferrin, who were still lying in a tumbled mess, as Ferrin's pack had slipped from his shoulders, encumbering him and also spilling most of its contents on both him and Kathra, and they were struggling to get out from underneath the pile.
The warlock began moving in hands in a more complex fashion, and a visible aura of magic began to glow around the mage as the power for the spell built. Doran figured that he could not get to the warlock before he finished his spell, so he drew his arm back, and took two steps forward as he swung his arm around and released his axe in a throw that caused a burning pain in his shoulder. The axe spun three times in the air before lodging itself firmly in the stomach of the warlock, who managed to turn his head to give Doran a look that was a combination of shock and agony before slumped to the ground.
Kathra had managed to disentangle herself and was ready to cast a spell when she saw the mage lying dead and Brick's convulsing have a few dying spasms before the spell dissipated, leaving him injured but still quite healthy. The three of them helped Ferrin clean up the mess of items, and then turned around to notice a chest behind the dead body of the warlock. Ferrin examined the chest carefully and then spoke, "It's got a teleportation trap on it. I don't know that I can disarm it, but I can set off. If you stand over there, then I should be able to safely set it off."
Ferrin worked his thin metal tools in the lock mechanism of the chest, and with a resounding click, a green ray of light shone from the chest directly at the point Ferrin had pointed, and Kathra was enveloped in a green glow, which grew in intensity until she could not be seen, at which point the light started to fade, fading into emptiness. Ferrin swore as he kicked the box in disbelief and anger, "I've never seen anything like that before!"
Brick pushed the lid of the chest open and peered inside as Ferrin began to curse the dead magician and the gods. A fine pair of boots and two interlocking mythinite rings lay on top of a large pile of gold and various valuable gems. Brick took the boots & rings out, and Doran removed a scroll from a pouch and read the words out, touching both items with his free hand. Ferrin had stopped his cursing and was going through the contents of the chest when Doran stopped his chanting as the scroll he was holding crumbled to dust. "Brick, you might want to try those boots on, and I'd say that pair of rings are very useful."
Brick sat down and swapped his boots while Ferrin slipped on the rings, which seemed to expand and then tighten around his finger to fit him perfectly. "I feel different," said Ferrin, "though I can't say exactly how." Brick finished putting on the boots and stood up, and appeared to be floating just above the ground. As he walked around, his feet did not touch the ground, but merely skimmed effortlessly on the air the slightly over it.
"Well, this is good," said Brick, "but losing Kathra was bad." Doran and Ferrin nodded in agreement as Brick continued. "We must find her before we go back." Doran and Ferrin exchanged quick smiles at each other before answering in agreement. While Brick's intentions were good, and they knew he was right, they also knew he lacked the intelligence to realise that they were way out of their depth and in great danger while they stayed down in this unknown territory. Their first priority was to find a way out so that even if they could not find Kathra, they could at least make it out the dungeon to survive this trip and hopefully come back at a later date to rescue her. If they were to die down here, it could be possible that they would never be found, or it could be years before they were.
After distributing the gold in the chest, they moved slowly and carefully through the dimness, their sight range limited to the small illumination given by the flickering light emanating from Brick's flaming sword, and for all they knew they could have been travelling in circles. They stumbled around, occasionally stopping still as the footsteps of some unknown creature passed nearby them, the monster unaware of the group's presence due to their silence, and Brick sheathing his sword to stop its light from giving them away.
It was an unseen teleporter that had caused them to separate, and Doran blamed himself for not taking more notice of the sounds that in reflection so obviously indicated that they were walking straight at the cursed device. But, there was nothing that he could do about it now, as he walked deliberately, almost testing his footing before every step, as he had nearly fallen into four pits in the blinding darkness. Far away, he thought he saw a faint pinprick of light to his left, and turned to face it in his sudden burst of hope. He could not be sure, but any small glimmer of light or hope was better than none, and he felt his way carefully forwards where he thought the light came from.
He had to stop once as he heard the low gutteral speech of some kind of creature near him, and craned his head towards the source of the voice to try and make out what was being said. He was well versed in Kruelk & Morkal, and the language almost seemed to be a combination of both of these languages of the damned. He surmised that it must be a demon of some sort, and he could not be sure, but the demon sounded fearful, something highly unusual of the any demon this deep in the dungeon. What sounded like 'below' and 'faerie' in Kruelk came up in the conversation, but there was little else that he could understand, except that he was certain that the demon was highly agitated, and from his speech, deathly afraid of some faerie creature even further in the depths.
This dungeon seemed to have no limit on its depth, and even when it was thought it could go no deeper, passages leading deeper underneath the ground were found, leading to areas populated by more evil and deadly creatures. It seemed to Doran that the passages would eventually lead to the deepest depths of hell, and as to what would be found there was anybody's guess, though he surmised that many would fall to whatever was the source of all the evil creatures and magic in these depths before the evil beast was killed.
Doran's heart skipped several beats as the creature started with a word that vaguely sounded like 'smell', and then stopped talking and loudly sniffed the air. Doran began to move as quickly as he could without making a sound, and the noise of the demon faded as he crept silently away, again pursuing the source of light he had seen before.
Doran felt as though he were getting nowhere, and had not again seen the light, and he was beginning to doubt himself and wonder whether he had actually just imagined seeing the light. A sudden roar, decidedly animal in nature pierced the silence with deadly efficiency. Very few creatures in the depths fought with the animals that were in them, so the killer was either one of those deadly few that did, or it was one of his friends. The risk of death was worth the possibility of finding one of his friends, for he knew that if he was here alone for any length of time he would end up dead anyway.
As he half-jogged, half-walked in the direction that the noise came from, Doran saw a faint yellow light and threw caution to the wind and ran towards it. As he got closer, relief swept over him as the figure of Brick became perceptible in the pale light. His relief was short-lived as he recognised the dead body of Kathra lying at Brick's feet, a large bear lying decapitated near it. "It was going to eat her." Doran just nodded in acknowledgment, hoping a similiar fate had not befallen Ferrin.
"Faerie told me that stairs were this way. We should come up near water
area." Doran nodded again, and realised that they had only fallen
down one floor of the dungeon from the chute in the ghoul's room.
If they could find the stairs, they would be able to make it back to the
town. "We may have to go back to town before we come back to find
Ferrin," said Doran.
"I know. I not like it, but think that we not survive with just the two of us." There was an uneasy pause as Brick thought, "He may already be in town. We go back, and return if he not there."
Brick lay Kathra over his shoulder and led the way towards where he had pointed. After a while, they could make out a light in the distance, signalling the fact that the stairs were in sight and they could make it to safety. Walking towards them, a white light appeared from the right of the stairs. The light moved towards the stairs, and reaching them, stopped, apparently guarding them. As they moved closer they saw the figure surrounded by the light, a skeletal figure carrying a scythe in both hands, apparently an incarnation of death, or hopefully, one of his less powerful servants.
Brick dropped Kathra's limp body, and sheathing his flaming sword, again drew his mighty undead slaying sword. "Fighting will achieve nothing," spoke the death, "it is your time, and I will prevail. You have however proven your worthiness, and will become a servant of my master." Doran drew in a breath of relief and thanked the gods at these words - this was just one of Death's servants. The minor death turned to face Doran, "I may not be my master, but there is still no reason to be thankful to your gods."
Brick pointed the tip of his sword at the Death and moved forward, and
as he did the Death swung his scythe down at Brick in a lightning quick
strike, but Brick made a deft leap effortlessly to his left thanks to his
magical boots, and swung a mighty retaliatory stroke at the Death, shattering
a bone in his rib cage. An expression of devilish rage visible on
his face, Death swung rapidly and repeatedly at Brick in a deadly whirlwind
of destruction, pushing him away from the stairs, and Brick only managed
to turn some of the blows aside as Doran grabbed Kathra's body from the
ground and sprinted to the now unguarded staircase.
Brick was getting pushed further away from the staircase as the Death's onslaught continued, and each hit seemed to age Brick a few years, draining his strength and resolve against the powerful creature. However, Brick was still managing to cause considerable damage back, and with a mighty downward blow severed the left arm of the Death off at the shoulder, the skeletal arm falling to the ground to lie inanimate. The Death snarled again at Brick, and wielding his scythe in one hand again attacked in a blind fury, taking several powerful blows from Brick but ignoring them to continue his raging attacks upon Brick's body. Brick was aging even more with every hit from the Death's scythe, his hair greying and his movement becoming slower as years of premature aging took an awful toll on his ogre frame.
Brick knew that he would soon fall to the blows of the Death, which must have been close to dying itself, and yelled out to Doran, "You go!" Turning his head back he swung his sword again at the Death, breaking yet another bone, but the Death swung his scythe at Brick's chest, finding a small gap between his armour to plunge into his body, and Brick fell lifeless to the ground. Doran felt a coarse, choking sob escape his lips, yet could not even remember opening his mouth. His mighty fighter friend had been felled, but his last wish had been for him to escape. He looked up the stairs, but dropped Kathra's body and gripped his axe with both hands as he stepped towards the Death.
"See. Dying is inevitable." Doran did not answer but merely stared at the Death in hatred, his face etched the berserker rage that he felt growing inside him as he roared in anger and raised his axe, charging the skeletal figure. The Death's face suddenly looked shocked, and Doran for the first time saw Ferrin standing behind Death, and the deep black blade he held buried deep into the shoulder of the Death. Ferrin gave the blade a quick twist and the Death's arm broke off, leaving him without any means of defending himself. Still charging at the Death, Doran brought his axe down over his head and swung it down through the body of the Death, slicing his body in two, sending shattered bones in a white storm of fragments about him.
Doran and Ferrin said nothing, but Ferrin reached into his pack and produced a potion and a small pouch. He knelt down to the body of Brick, and rolling it over, threw dust from the pouch over his body, and then poured the potion down his open lips. At first, nothing happened, but slowly, Brick's body appeared to 'un-age', growing younger, restoring some years of life to him. As this finished, Doran noticed a small twitch in Brick's fingers and then noticed his eyes moving, trying to focus on the two figures leaning over him.
"What was the potion?" asked Doran.
Ferrin smiled as he replied, "A special mix created with the blood of dragons. I had been told it was the equivalent of many potions of youth. I never believed that person, well, not until now at any rate." Turning to Brick and offering him a hand, he said, "I think it's time to head home, friend."
"Yes. That sound good."
"Yes," Doran laughed, "that sounds very good indeed."
I hope you enjoyed this short story!