Earth nature field

The Slaad Saga Part 2: Twists of Chaos

A place to share in-character stories and event recaps! All out of character text should be noted as such.
Post Reply
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:58 pm

The Slaad Saga Part 2: Twists of Chaos

Post by Cyker »

The Slaad Saga Part 2: Twists of Chaos

Prologue - Warning Signs
"...and that's all we know so far, sir.", Reylar finished nervously, standing at attention.

"Oh my..." the old man he was talking to said with faint alarm, "Well you best get some rest before you go back. Master Shadestep, if you could be so kind as to call the others, I think Master Reylar's news warrants a meeting!"

"Sure thing boss!" Shadestep nodded eagerly before leaving the common room.

Reylar and Wolfwood watched the old man pad off after the energetic halfling, his fluffy bunny slippers flip-flopping against the hard stone floor.

"Me gutz bad feelin' 'bout diz." Wolfwood muttered.

"You'n me both lad." Reylar said tiredly, "I best get some kip. 's been a long day..."

"Yeah... By da way, yooz hungree? Yooz wan me ta makez da quick snak befor yooz sleepz?"

"Uh... thanks, but I alr'dy ate." Reylar lied.

"Well, soot yoozself. Lemme nose if yooz change mind. It not trubble!"

Reylar clapped him on the back, "Thanks. Yer a good heart lad." he grinned.

They bid each other farewell, before going their separate ways; Wolfwood heading back to The Kitchen, while Reylar went up the reality-defying stairs that led to the dorms and sleeping quarters.

After setting a saucer of milk down, he flopped back onto his bed, "Ahh... It's good t' be 'ome." he sighed.

"Mow!" Nick agreed before lapping up the milk.

Reylar reluctantly sat back up to unlatch the quick-releases on his armour, letting it clatter to the floor, before dozing back off...

Chapter 1 - The Long Wait

"Where in the Planes *are* they?!" Reylar muttered to himself, growing impatient.

He was used to standing around and waiting, having done his fill of guard duty, but it was nearing midday, and he had been in the Libur Arcanium since early morning.

The only people in the library were a small group of wizards, some foppish man and his wife (or possibly mistress), another aristocratic-wannabe and the insufferable custodian himself.

Reylar sighed.

More hours passed.

The group of wizards left, and a woman in a hilariously ostentatious dress, adorned with dozens of jangling bits of jewellery, flounced in, followed by a small retinue of servants.

Reylar sniggered evilly as she made a beeline for Zoroster, who had returned at about midday, but refused to divulge his findings to Reylar due to him being, as Zoroster put it, one of the 'lackeys'.

The flustered mage quickly directed the woman away, only to find himself arm-in-arm and being led away towards the rear sections of the library where he'd pointed.

Reylar snickered again before resuming his vigil.



Reylar awoke with a start, glancing around wildly, "Lady's blades, I must have dozed off!"


Reylar blinked, looked toward the source of the noise and did a horrified double-take. He checked behind himself, quickly dashing the slim possibility that the jingling-jangling behemoth was waving at someone else.

"Well hello there my handsome knight!" the woman beamed at him as she sidled, or perhaps more appropriately, waddled up to him.

Reylar stood at parade-ground attention, staring straight ahead. On the edge of his vision, he was sure he could see Zoroster snickering.

"So," the woman said, moving in uncomfortably close and running a finger over Reylar's shoulder plate, "What's a handsome young virile stallion like you doing in a place like this?" she purred.

"Waiting for my companions, ma'am." Reylar spoke at her, not moving.

"Well I am here now," the woman winked, or at least blinked at him, "How's about we mosey on to my manor and you can '-" she smiled seductively in low sultry tones, wafting perfume that could have stunned a swamp dragon.

"Erm.. I can't la- m'lady... tha' is, I've already bin 'ired t' -"

"Oh! You're *that* sort of 'knight'." she licked her lips.

"No, I mean-" Reylar tried desperately.

"Well I'm *sure* I can 'up the ante' so to speak." she winked suggestively again.

*Oh Gods!* Reylar thought miserably, *Could this get any worse?!*


He resisted the urge to clap a hand over his eyes. Of course it could.

"Oh! What a delightful kitten?" the woman gushed, "Is he yours? Oh you are just perfect! Come here you scrumptious thing!"

"No, don't...!"

Before Reylar could stop her, she grabbed Nick by the head and crushed him up against her colossal bosom.

"Oh yes snookums, I think you will make a fine pair-"

"MOW!" Nick snapped angrily, and electrocuted her.

"Oh crit-" moaned Reylar.

"Mistress Elvera!" the head of her retinue cried out in alarm as the twitching body slumped to the floor, "What have you done to her?! GUARDS!! SEIZE THAT... THAT RUFFIAN!!"

With supernatural speed, Reylar was already out of the library at the word 'seize', arrowing straight for the weaving back-streets of Brosna.

It wasn't until he'd gotten to the gate that led to Old Brosna that he slowed down. Panting heavily, he leaned against the wall, "Thanks Nick, I don't know whether to thank you or hit you." he gasped.

"Mow!" Nick turned his nose up, sending a spark jumping down his back to the end of his tail.

"Well wha' now... them berks left me in t' stix an' no mistake! Y' reckon we shoul-"

"Mow!" the kitten butted against his leg, and beckoned him to follow, scampering west along the road.

When he caught up, he found himself outside the Guildhall, used by the Shield of the Sunlit Realms.

"Yes? What?"


"What, in there?"


"Are y' sure?" he asked as he began to pick the lock. To his surprise it already had been.


"I'm just checkin'!" he paused, "Sommat you want berk?" Reylar turned to glare at the beggar who was eyeing them worriedly.

"Um... no sir... err, alms?" he added hopefully.

Reylar sighed, flipping him a gold piece before clicking open the lock and entering the hall.

"Oh thank you sir! And thanks to your... friend... too." he smiled at the departing man-and-his-kitten. As far as he was concerned, if they were generous souls, they could be as bat-crazy as they liked.

Chapter 2 - The Meeting

Reylar crept in, muffling his armour with his cloak again. He'd broken into the Guildhall on more than a few occasions in the past, although usually with Lorana or Leatherus or some other member of the 'locksmith's guild'.

There were several clearly visible foot prints on the normally sparkling floor, so he followed them in, seeing light ahead.

"...ix months ago, one of them gave me a seed..." came a solemn voice, which Reylar recognized as Beryl's.

"They changed t' meetin' place an' didn't tell me!" he exclaimed.

Throwing caution to the abyss, he stormed into the brightly lit hall, dust swirling under his purple cloak.

"Beryl?! Thrar?! Where are you??!" he roared.

"Reylar? Why am I not surprised..." an elf woman dressed in grey chuckled without turning around.

"By t' spleen-crushin' gears o' Mechanus lass! I thought we were t' meet at t' Library! I bin waitin' there for hours!" Reylar complained.

"Oh..." Beryl managed, lost for words in her surprise.

"An' while I was waitin', some bint tried t' 'proposition' me! Thought I was a jink-shirt!"

"Well your cousins have such nice dresses. Sense. Dress sense.", the grey-clad elf coughed, "Wolfy for instance..."

"Been borrowing Wildy's bikini have we?" someone snickered.

Reylar narrowed his eyes, throwing both speakers a baleful glare that could have incinerated ceramics.

He blinked as they turned fully round in their seats, "Oh... Manjha, Daelanna..." he saluted the Shield members nervously, in full knowledge that locked doors don't open themselves, "Err... My apologies... I din't realize ye were all... that is..."

The others looked at him expectantly.

"Erm, should I jus'... wait outside? 'til yer finished?"

"No it's alright Rey. The mop's over there." Daelanna teased.

"Mop?!" Reylar spluttered.

"It's alright Reylar, please, take a seat." Beryl gestured, suppressing a grin.

Reylar pulled up a chair and slumped gratefully into it, "So... what's t' chant?" he asked, rubbing his neck.

"The 'chant' is that the Slaadi need something done." Beryl recounted, "They require me to do something for them. In return, they will release the children."

Manjha shook his head, "The Shield has not been one to give in to blackmail... many have tried."

"Perhaps not, but with children involved..." Beryl let the sentence hang.

Reylar blinked... he swore he'd seen a shadow flicker.

"Why would they have kidnapped 9 children just to make you help them? Wouldn't 1 have been enough?" Daelanna asked with a frown.

"That's what we wondered. One would have forced me to aid them." Beryl admitted.

"I reckon they need t' children for sommat... nine is three three's; Tha's a powerful number fer planar folk." Reylar chipped in.

"Yes, it sounds to me that they will not let the children go even if you help them." Daelanna said sadly.

Beryl shook her head uncertainly, "I feel that the Slaadi were not lying about releasing the children, but..."

Before Beryl could finish, two more figures entered the hall - one was Thrar Gren, and the other was Zoroster, the custodian of the Libur Arcanium.

"YOU!" Reylar shot out of his seat, pointing accusingly at him.

"Is there some problem, planar?" the mage gave the last word a mocking tone.

"Why did ye tell tha' bint in t' library I was a jink-shirt?!" Reylar demanded.

Zoroster eyed him coldly, "I have no idea, or interest for that matter, what you're talking about." he said dismissively before turning to Beryl, "Ah, the lady of the hour." he said, bowing formally.

"Hello?" Beryl blinked.

"Excuse me, sir..." Daelanna interrupted smoothly, "But no weapons are allowed in this hall."

"Oh very well." Zoroster huffed, sending his staff and scimitar into a pocket plane, "It helps keep the riff raff away. Usually." he looked casually in Reylar's direction.

The custodian summoned a chair over to him and sat down, smoothing out his robe, "Now then, to business...

"We have devoted long hours of study into that curious flower and what its purpose can mean.

"Several of our best scribes... and some of our less best scribes..." he added under his breath, "poured over the vast library of information at our disposal.

"Alas, all we have been able to find are vague hints. Rog-err, One of the scribes found that the flower is used in very rare and very powerful banishment spells."

"Really? So... they want us to release this banished... thing?" Beryl postulated.

"That would seem the case. It is likely that the spell has been in effect for a long time. Possibly several millennia judging by the age of the artifacts we hypothesized this theory from. Now, you said a Slaad gave you the flower?"

"Well, it gave me a seed, which grew into a flower later..." Beryl clarified.

"Ah yes, I recall. The Slaad obviously cannot germinate this seed, no doubt part of the plan to seal this creature and keep it there."

"Yes... the slaadi seem to think I was needed to nurture this seed, 'tho I haven't done anything to it. It has travelled in my pack all of this while..."

"Do you have any idea why nine children were taken?" Daelanna spoke up.

"Of course!" Zoroster snapped irritably, "Several ideas! Most of them are very weak however. One of the less unlikely theories is that they relate to the nine commonly perceived philosophies, or alignments, that scholars believe are the ethical framework of the multiverse."

"Good, neutral, evil, lawful, neutral, and chaotic, right? Combination of those." Thrar suggested.

"Yes. Well done." Zoroster rolled his eyes, "Of course, I must stress that it could be something completely different. Slaadi are not known for their adherence to logical thought.

"'s t' Rule of Three I tell ye." Reylar mumbled.

"Oh you planar folk and your superstitious theories! Why don't you play with your sword while the smart people talk, 'eh? There's a good chap."

"Hmph. Barmy stuck-up addle-coved sod-pike son o' a Lemure." Reylar muttered under his breath.

"Please, sir." Beryl prompted, while Daelanna gave Reylar a stern look.

Zoroster turned his attention back to Beryl, "To be honest, there's not much more to tell. All I can advise is that you tread very carefully."

The mage stood up, sending the chair back to the table, "If I discover anything else I shall contact you." he nodded, moving to the door, "Oh, and bring back those children, the duke worries of the negative impact such a disaster may have on the population."

"How?" Manjha asked after he left, "We don't even know where to look!"

Beryl fidgeted, "The slaadi 'summoned' me again."

"I see..." Manjha nodded understandingly, "What did they say?"

"They say I am to go to a tomb, in a Gloomy Wood? It is guarded by monks, they say, and there are two altars. I am to leave a sacrifice on each altar." she told them, shoulder slumping dejectedly.

The others looked at each other.

"Sacrifice as in...?" Thrar prompted uneasily.

"Blood." Beryl said dully.

"Ah. Let's try to avoid doing anything rash with that... Perhaps the sap, or blood of a plant will work."

"I could get some un-cooked Meat Surprises. They're pretty bloody. 'course they might melt down t' altar..." Reylar shrugged.

Beryl took a deep breath, "I have the blood..."

Daelanna raised an alarmed eyebrow.

"No no, nothing like that!" Beryl reassured them, face reddening, "They gave me two dragon hearts to use. Once I put these dripping, beating hearts on these altars and spill their blood... something will be released. I am not sure where the flower comes into play, but the children will then be released too. Or so I understand." she said quietly.

"The seal will probably break when you do that, we should avoid it. If the slaad have to go through all this trouble, the thing they're trying to release must be a dangerous thing, and shouldn't be taken lightly by even the strongest of hero's." Thrar observed darkly, with Manjha nodding in solemn agreement.

"True, but they will not release the children, unless I do exactly as they require!" Beryl repeated.

"Then we'll have to foil the plan in some way, if those monks guarding the altars are sane, and listen to reason they might help us."

"They are not sane, according to the slaadi."

"Well maybe not to them, but you can't be to sure." Thrar pointed out.

"Aye... they're 'bout as trustworthy as a yugoloth jink-shifter." Reylar muttered.

"I don't think they will release the children even if you do as they say." Daelanna said emphatically, shaking her head.

"Then you've got no choice. Don't sacrifice the hearts and let the children die... and no evil slaad monster will be released. Simple." Lorana suddenly emerged from behind a pillar behind Reylar, who nearly fell out of his chair, "Yea', I'm here."

"Lorana..." Daelanna said softly.

"Daelanna." Lorana nodded back.

"Yet, abandoning the children is an evil thing." Thrar pointed out gravely, "We might not release an evil being, but we will release the evil in ourselves."

"We are not going to abandon them. We will try to save them." Daelanna stressed.

"I cannot allow the children to die." Beryl said firmly.

Lorana rolled her eyes with a sigh, "Why make it so... so *complicated*? They're probably dead already anyway."

"No, they aren't!" Beryl insisted, "They said..."

"Well... maybe there's a better way..." Reylar rubbed his chin, cursing himself for forgetting, "Aye, park yer ears, this is important!"

"Okay, we're listening." Lorana drawled skeptically.

"Y' remember I said someone tol' me t' seek ye out?" Reylar began, looking at Beryl. She nodded.

"Tha' someone was some proxy from one o' t' higher planes. A Celestial Avenger 'ccordin' t' me cousins. Big armored basher, got a helmet shaped like a... badger." he fought down a shudder.

"Anyways, he lanned me this White Slaad's name was Ysingrin - Right bad blood - An' tha' 'e was in some sort o' fight wit' another o' 'is kind. Another white I s'ppose."

Manjha rolled his eyes, "To many secrets come out at the end. Anyone else have any while we're at it?". He eyed Lorana, who gave him a mock conspiratory wink.

Beryl was silent for a few moments, digesting the new information, "So you think we're releasing an ally of his, to help him defeat this 'Other'?"

"I really don't like being a pawn to some evil game." Manjha muttered distastefully.

"Nor do I, Manjha. Nor do I..." Beryl agreed emphatically.

"Anyways..." Reylar continued, "Tha' got me brain-box clickin'... Whenever we've 'ad problems like this, we always 'arrange' things so tha' the t' two sides fight each other 't exhaustion... tha's when we move in t' dirt-nap 'em."

"What if we can't pick off the winner?", Manjha insisted, "If we even do the evil act to start it."

"I have no answer." Beryl gave a hollow shrug.

"Life is 'bout risk cutter. T' trick is t' figure t' odds out before ye' throw yer bones... or fix 'em in yer favor..."

"You're right, but how can we fix them if they have all the dice?" Manjha pointed out.

"Y' got me there cutter." Reylar shrugged, "Where did y' say this place was lass, Gloomy Wood?"

Beryl rubbed a hand over her face, "Yes, that is what the white slaad called it. He said it was near Brosna."

"Well the children must be close to there as well..." Daelanna surmised.

"Tha's drow territory if me brain-box ain't addled..." Reylar said worriedly, "I remember Wildy tellin' me 'bout this time a bunch o' them were tryin' t' break out of t' Underdark and- Hey!"

"What?" Manjha asked, with a furrowed brow.

Reylar sprung from his chair and dashed at Beryl, who blinked at him in alarm, but as he leapt to grab her, she suddenly dissolved into a whirling distortion of light!

"Shas'rakk!" Reylar swore before crashing into the chair she'd been sitting on, "Damnit! Not again!" he spat, rubbing his shoulder.

"What's going on?" they all turned to find that Sianan had joined them.

"My lady." Manjha bowed. Behind him, Lorana made a disgusted noise.

"It's Beryl," Thrar explained, "We were just talking and then she suddenly..."

"... appeared." Lorana pointed.


"Gah!" Beryl grabbed the table edge to steady herself as the others rushed to her aid. She glanced up at them, taking a deep breath, "We must go. Now."

"What happened?" Daelanna asked, concern filling her elven eyes.

"It was the Slaad. He said... he said not to tarry, that he will start killing the children if we do not make haste."

"Your Will be Done." Reylar quoted, saluted her formally and advanced towards the door.

"One last thing Lady Beryl..." Manjha motioned to her as the others gathered their equipment and followed, "If they can get you anytime they want... then it seems likely they have tabs on you and know all we talk about."

Beryl nodded mutely before joining the others, Manjha following her.

Chapter 3 - Killing Fields

The party cut through the derelict ruins of Old Brosna quickly, crossing the South Brosna plains and were soon at the edge of the city's border.

"Right, is everybody ready?" Beryl asked, tightening her armour.

"Yes." Halad spoke for the first time.

The monk flipped the prayer beads he'd been cycling since the meeting over his hand and tied them securely to his belt, before tightening the straps on his gloves.

Reylar adjusted the straps holding Pargan's shield to his arm. It had saved him many times and he sent silent thanks to the old warrior.

"Better dig in Nick, this might take a while." he muttered over his shoulder as he swept his greensteel blade through the air experimentally. It hummed menacingly.

The others performed similar rituals, adjusting shields and greaves, or preparing spells.

With a nod, Beryl led them cautiously into the Blighted Hills.

They made good time, covering a good distance before Halad suddenly raised his arm in a fist, calling a halt.

"What is it?" Beryl asked in a low voice, squinting into the darkness.

Halads eyes glowed purple, "Undead. Lots of them."

Reylar peered into the gloom, forcing his irises to open, "Lady's shadow...there's a lot of 'em!" he said weakly.

In the plain below them were several dozen lumbering figures.

"They will not stop us." Halad said confidently, "Come."

The group strode down the hill confidently as the first Mohrg spotted them.

"ATTACK!" Thrar yelled, eager to engage. He and Halad sprinted forwards, sending the first Mohrgs to reach them flying backwards as they crashed into them.

Reylar flinched as several arrows whistled over his head from behind, embedding themselves in skulls and chests.

He, Beryl and Manjha ran down to join with the others as the rest of the Mohrgs shambled towards them.

Sianan thrust her arms forward, chanting to her deity and a burst of positive energy slammed into the mass of Mohrgs, sending some of them reeling back as the warriors hacked at them viciously.

Reylar sent a few blows glancing off his shield then swept his sword wide in a diagonal cut, humming as it went clean through arms, legs and rib cages while Beryl blocked kicks and punches, answering them with attacks of her own.

Next to him, Manjha's brute strength was shattering the bones of anything that got in the way of his sword.

Further ahead, surrounded, Halad and Thrar were trading foes as Halad's lightning swift movements had him dancing around the Mohrgs attacks while his Ki-charged fists crushed spines and deflected blows, opening them up for Thrar to cut them down.

"I bet I can get more than you." Lorana smirked as she and Daelanna loosed more arrows onto the crowd from their higher vantage point.

"It's not a competition Lorana." Daelanna admonished, before sending an arrow through one Mohrg's eye socket and into the chest of the one behind it.

"Show off." Lorana muttered as she shot the hand off one that was about to club Thrar over the head.

"Look out!" Daelanna warned suddenly. She and Lorana quickly shot the two Mohrgs that came running up the hill, but behind them were five more!

Lorana knelt, sending two more shafts into them as Daelanna dropped her bow and sprouted two short blades, dripping with acid.

"Don't hit me now dear!" she called as she dashed forward with elven speed, her blades blurring into action.

"Don't tempt me." Lorana muttered as she notched another arrow.

"We are clear." Halad said, giving their surroundings one last sweep.

Reylar and Lorana were already looting the bodies for as much as they could.

"Hmm... gold, gold, some boots, a broken staff, a wand, some horse riding gloves..." Reylar muttered his findings.

"Ah... to have a horse." Halad allowed himself a rare smile.

They moved off after Sianan sanctified the newly dead undead, climbing the hill that separated the Blighted Hills from the Valley of Darkness.

"Ware," Reylar warned quietly, "This place is crawlin' wit' drow..."

The others nodded.

"We should avoid them if possible, sneak by if we can." Halad suggested, staring into the darkness.

Lorana looked at him, then looked at Reylar, Manjha and Beryl critically, "Yeah. That'll work." she said sarcastically.

"Well lets get to t' bottom of this pikin' hill before they see us!" Reylar hissed.

They descended as quietly as they could, and tried to spy the best way through, but the Valley floor was quite featureless, only a few trees dotted around, and none big enough for any useful concealment.

"We'll have to try skirting round..." Thrar said, scanning the gloom.

The party moved in a wide circle, trying to avoid running into a drow patrol. They were about half way round when a drow war party descended on them without warning.

"Crap, we're surrounded!" Reylar hissed as he held his sword in an en garde position.

"Fools! Did you think that we would not notice such a pathetic attempt to sneak through our territory? Elgg nind saph l'yeunn vil'klviss nind phuul!!"

Reylar paled, recognizing the voice, "It's Captain Nawieng, she's the one that-Scar!"

Reylar hauled his shield up just in time to block a pair of bolts aimed right at him and Lorana.

Halad and Manjha leapt forwards at the nearest drow, Manjha's shield clearing a path through the darts and bolts, while Halad twisted and spun around them.

The drow jerked back in surprise, expecting the 'filthy kivvil' to cower back into a group.

"Stuff this!" Lorana muttered, suddenly disappearing from view and appearing behind a surprised drow archer, who suddenly grew a second mouth in his neck.

Reylar hung back with Thrar and Beryl, covering Daelanna and Sianan as they fired at the drow archers and dart throwers.

Suddenly a quintet of magical missiles erupted from somewhere in the darkness and sped towards the group. Reylar caught two of them on his shield, but the other three struck Beryl and Thrar.

"Beryl!" Sianan gasped as the Navy cloak tumbled over.

"You should worry about yourself surfacer!" called a triumphant voice. Sianan looked down, at the shaft sticking out of her chest, a red stain blossoming out around it on her spotlessly white robe.

Daelanna stared in horror as Sianan crumpled to the ground.

The laughing voice suddenly became a choked scream, as Lorana suddenly appeared behind and stabbed the drow through the neck.

"Sorry, I unck!" Lorana choked off her words as she found a sword point protruding from her chest.

"It is a pity for such talent to be wasted on a surfacer."

Lorana her head to give a retort, but screamed instead when the drow twisted the sword and then yanked it back out.

"Nawieng." Reylar spat, not looking directly at her as Lorana slumped to the floor, clutching her chest. There was a sudden movement, and Reylar jerked his arm, just catching the arrow on the edge of his shield.

"Oh, one of the little kivvil knows of me! We shall have to fix that right away!"

Without finishing her sentence, the drow captain leapt forward, knocking Reylar's sword out of his hand with her shield and spearing him with her sword. Reylar managed to twist aside, letting heavy plates of his armor glance the blow away. He swiped his own shield around low, using the edge to try and trip the drow up, but she skipped lightly and trapped it on the ground.

"You heartless bitch!" Daelanna screamed, whirling forward, her twin blades clashing with the drow's. Reylar looked about, scrabbling back to his feet groggily.

He half-ran over to where Berly and Thrar lay, fumbling for the small healing ampoules he kept on his belt. He forced one down Thrar's throat, but was surprised when Beryl grabbed his hand and hauled herself up.

"Daelanna needs help!" he gasped.

The two of them nodded silently, picking themselves up and moving off to aid Daelanna.

Another movement caught Reylar's eye and he swirled his cloak around just in time to deflect another dart. Kneeling, he pulled the concealed knife from his boot and flicked it at his hidden attacker.

The drow dodged it easily, but before he could take aim again, Reylar was upon him. With a vengeful twist, he snapped the drow's neck and yanked the sword from its grasp before throwing the corpse to the ground.


Daelanna knew she was in trouble. The surge of vengeance-filled energy she'd gotten was wearing off, and she felt her movements becoming sluggish in the face of Captain Nawieng's methodical defences. Both of them were sporting minor cuts, but while Daelanna was slowing, the drow seemed to be speeding up...

"Dae! Hold on!" Beryl and Thrar came running out of the blackness, their weapons glinting as the approached.

"Your little friends come out to play too?" the drow mocked.

"It's not too late," Daelanna offered as they circled each other, "Surrender and-"

"You insult me darthirii!"

The two lunged at each other. Daelanna felt her sword penetrate the drow's sword-arm, but she gasped as she felt the drow's burning blade bite deeply into her side.


Reylar jerked around to face Beryl's cry. He took one step before a ball of fire flew out of nowhere landed to his right, exploding and bowling him over as it sent burning dirt and debris flying through the air.

The drow mage materialized in front of the prone mercenary, grinned sadistically as he raised his hands.

Reylar cringed, "Argh! Look behind you! A three headed monkey!"

"Pathetic!" the mage spat as a bolt of concentrated negative energy leapt from his finger and struck Reylar's chest.

They both blinked at each other in surprise.

Reylar started laughing.

"Vel'bo-" the drow began, when Halad suddenly sprang up behind him.

In a smooth motion the monk adjusted his balance a little, then kicked his foot out, sweeping the drow's legs out from under him before he could teleport away.

As he thudded onto his back, Halad leaned forward and struck the prone mage full in the chest with his open palm.

The drow struggled for a brief moment, then his eyes crossed and he died.

"Are you alright Reylar?" Manjha gasped, running up to them, "We thought we were too late."

"Daelanna, go 'help Daelanna!" Reylar yelled as he struggled to get back up, and then they were gone.


Halad and Manjha arrived to find Beryl and Thrar being beaten back by the drow captain.

"Pathetic! With but one arm I could beat you!" she taunted them, her sword in her left arm while her right hung limp, "But I have no need to prove my superiority!"

She dodged back as a hail of magic missiles arced up into the air from behind her.

"Beryl! Thrar!" Manjha called, skidding in front of them. His shield glowed blue as the missiles were absorbed by the shield's powerful enchantments.

"Your end is at hand." Halad said in a toneless voice as he stalked towards the retreating captain.

"Is that so?"

Another mage appeared, and with a wave of his hand a glowing glyph formed on the earth.

Halad shielded his face with one arm as a blast of burning air gusted past him.

"Fire elemental!" Beryl shouted, while Manjha knelt by Daelanna, trying to help staunch her wounds.

"C'mon!" Thrar nodded to her, and the two of them ran to Halad's aid, but the mage began firing acid arrows at them and it was all they could do to fend them off.

"Go, I'll get this berk!" Reylar called, half-running towards the source of the arrows.

He snapped his shield up as the stream was suddenly directed at him, but the enchantments on Pargan's shield resisted them easily and Reylar was soon upon the mage.

With a powerful slash he struck the mage, but to his surprise all he did was chip off a large chunk of stone.

Grinning with mocking amusement, the mage pointed his finger at Reylar and shouted a power word.

The spell dissipated as it struck the Kazarn, sparks of azure being drawn to Reylar's belt. Barking a humorless laugh, Reylar punched the drow in the face, then kicked his legs out from under him as he tried to cast another spell.

As the drow rolled to his feet, Reylar pulled a wand shard from his belt and pointed it at the drow, "Nul'cha!".

There was a flash of light, and the drow felt its protections being stripped from it!

With a desperate cry, it pulled out a concealed dagger and stabbed Reylar in the gut with it.

"Ugh..." Reylar grunted as the drow twisted the knife with an victorious gleam. He tottering back a little, before bring his sword down and cleaving the surprised dark elf in half.

His armour protected him from the corrosive enchantment on the dagger, but it still hurt and he could feel moisture soaking into the leathers under his armour.

"Wolfwood!" he yelled hoarsely.


"No Wolfy... yooz goin' ta make dem sick!"

"Naw, me a'redde take datz into account..."

Nag sighed - His attempts to explain to Wolfwood that, actually, orks could digest things better than svirfneblin, were falling on deaf ears.

"Oi, wait... Rey'z in trubble!" Wolfwood suddenly exclaimed, "C'mon Big Poorpil!"

The two of them stood up, sending chairs flying as they careened out of the Salty Dog towards the Temple of Life.

The priest jumped as the door slammed open, then yelped and dodged out the way as the two heavily armoured orks thundered down the aisle directly towards him.

"Folla' me!" Wolfwood grunted, jumping into the portal.

The two of them appeared next to Reylar as he sank to the ground, "Wolfy, oh, hello Nag..." he slurred, "Drowsie..." he pointed to where Beryl and the others were still fighting. Nag grinned enthusiastically before donning his helmet and ambling off, unsheathing his massive two-handed sword with an ear-keening screech.

"Nose wurree Rey, me made noo ez'per'mental Ennamagee Food!"

Before Reylar could protest, Wolfy rammed a lump of a foul-tasting mud-like substance in his mouth, then slapped him hard on the back. Reylar choked, a burning sensation spreading out from his throat, then his stomach heaved and he started coughing up a gooey tar-like substance.

"Dere ya go, all betta!" Wolfwood beamed, taking off his cheffing hat/welding mask as Reylar spat out the last of the horrible goo. Wiping his mouth to try and remove the last of the foul taste, he eyed Wolfwood skeptically as the ork replaced his hat with one that looked identical except for the "Koz Raz Svriz" carved on the front of it.

Reylar moved experimentally, then sprung up, feeling better much to his surprise and annoyance.

"Go 'elp Sianan," he said, gripping his sword and pulling it out of the ground, "Then 'elp 'er get t' other fallen!" he nodded before running over to help the others.

Wolfwood ambled over to where Sianan was, looked around surreptitiously, then poked her just to make sure she was actually dead. Satisfied, he poured a bubbling green liquid on Sianan's chest, which immediately began to dissolve the arrow, leaving a smoldering hole on her robe. Then he put a massive hand over her eyes and sought out her soul-thread.

"Ah, gotcha!" he beamed after some moments, opening up another bottle and plastering her head with the contents before mentally willing the thread to stick to it.

Sianan sat bolt upright, coughing up congealed blood all over his dragonplate apron. She blinked twice and then focused on Wolfwood's toothily grinning face.

Suppressing the urge to cry out in alarm, she smiled weakly at the ork, "Thanks Wolfy..."

"Yooz gonna be alright?" he asked, standing and offering a hand.

"Y... yes, I think so. Wait, Lorana? Where is she?"

"Me not nose... me fink Dee got bashed up too... yooz go find Lor an me go getz Dee, yeah?"

Sianan nodded. She felt weak, but could feel the strength returning to her body.

"Oh yeah, yooz ded lukky 'coz izza nudda speshul offa day! Enjoyz!"

Wolfwood unhooked a bag from his pack and tossed it to Sianan, beaming again before ambling off. Sianan caught it deftly, then gingerly held it out at arms length. It looked worryingly like the bag Reylar had thrown into the slums the previous day...

Shaking her head, she stowed it and ran to where she'd seen Lorana fall.


Guard Captain Nawieng parried a clumsy blow and answered it by slashing Beryl across the cheek, before falling back.

Her exertions had cost her, and although she could have easily killed any one of them, together they were starting to overwhelm her.

"So this is how you surfacers fight? Many on one, you are less honourable than-"

Manjha barked a bitter laugh, "You of all people speak of honour in battle?", he pointed his sword at her, "Let us finish this!"

"Ahh, I nose yoo!" Nag bellowed as he came into view, spotting the lone drow as his giant sword rose high into the air.

"Nag!" the others cried in surprise and relief.

"Wait! Stop!" Halad cried suddenly.

Seizing the momentary distraction, the captain smashed a glinting yellow crystal against her chest and promptly vanished in a blink of light.

"NO!" Manjha roared, throwing his sword at the spot where the drow captain was standing but moments ago, "If we cross paths again I WILL end you!" he yelled into the night.

The others stood in mute silence as his challenge went into the night unanswered.

A twig snapped behind them.

Halad dropped into a crouch and spun round, arms raised in fighting stance.

"Is everyone okay?" Daelanna called, as she walked awkwardly to them, Sianan supporting her.

"Daelanna! Sianan!" Thrar exclaimed, running up to them and grabbing them in a wide embrace, "I thought you were dead!"

"I was, but Wolfwood..."

"Yea? Wot? Aww, not tell me got nudda ded wun!" the ork lamented, running after Lorana who was trying desperately to dissuade him from giving her the 'free gift'.

"I tol' you, I don't want it! Go away!!" she hissed as Wolfwood stopped, hunching over and panting after his exertions.

"Don't worry, I'll take it," offered Sianan diplomatically.

"Aww.... it only wun per cuztoma... but sinz yooz gud cuztoma..." he handed the bag over to Sianan, who accepted it gracefully.

Lorana shot her a look combining incredulation, disgust and horror in one.

"I hate to intrude, but perhaps it would be a good idea to vacate this area." Halad said quietly, his glowing eyes sweeping across the gloom.

"Yeah, even the chicken's running away." Thrar observed.


They all turned to look. Indeed, there was a chicken running across the field towards the edge of the valley.

"Daz wun smart chikken." Wolfwood nodded sagely.

"Yup." Nag agreed.

"Wolfy, go back to The Construct, we'll be okay now."

"Ya shuur?" Wolfwood tilted his head.

"Aye, pike off before Shadestep starts booby-trapping the Kitchen or something." Reylar grinned.

"Awg!" Wolfwood said, pulling a thick rune-carved sheet of metal out of a pocket and promptly disappearing, leaving nothing but a sparkling ripple in the air.

Shaking their heads, the others followed the footsteps of the departed chicken towards their destination - the Gloomy Wood.

Chapter 4 - Can We Play With Madness?

The party made its way cautiously out of the valley. Around them, more trees showed themselves in evidence. Daelanna and Beryl found themselves feeling slightly more comfortable, while Reylar and Manjha were looking a little more uneasy.

"I 'ate forests." Reylar muttered.

"Why?" Daelanna asked in surprise.

"Every forest on this poxy burg's got some shiv-body trying t' turn y' int' fiend-food."

"It's not that bad!" Beryl defended.

"Oh aye?", Reylar held up a hand and began counting off, "Common Wood - Giant Spiders, Undead; Great Northern Forest - Bandits, Giant Spiders and Bears; T' many forests o' Kabu - Bears, Tigers, Minotaurs, Bandits; Dark Wood - Undead, Lycanthropes and crazy dead biters; Trommel Wood - Dragon; T'Rel - Lots o' pikin' dragons..."

"Oh come on, T'Rel isn't even a forest!"

"'s got trees in it, ain't it?"

Daelanna and Beryl glanced at each other, rolling their eyes while Manjha just chuckled, shaking his head.

Sianan moved closer to Daelanna, "Are you alright there dear?"

Daelanna nodded, "It still aches a little, but it isn't bothering me."

Sianan nodded and drifted back to her former position.

" 'Are you alright dear' " Lorana mocked in a falsetto voice under her breath.

"Feeling left out?" Reylar grinned, earning a punch in the ribs, "Seriously 'tho lass, ye alright?"

Lorana sighed, "I'll live. She fixed it up pretty good." she admitted reluctantly.

"Oh look, a badger!" Beryl called delightfully.

"WHERE?!" Reylar exclaimed.

A flock of startled pheasants and other birds suddenly boiled out of the undergrowth, followed by a pack of hungry forest cats.

"Oh for-" Lorana groused, neatly stepping out of the way and kicking one in the ribs as it flew past.

"It's not my fault!" Reylar insisted, punching one between the eyes and throwing it back into the undergrowth while it was still stunned.

Beryl cringed, "Please be gentle! They're just looking for food!"

"Really? Why din' ye pikin' say so!" Reylar exclaimed, reaching for his food sack.

"NO!" Daelanna and Beryl exclaimed at once.

"C'mon, lets go find a good camping spot." Manjha chuckled as the two ladies tried to calm the wild cats down.


After a cursory search, they settled on a small clearing between a collapsed cave and a copse of trees.

"Ugh." Reylar muttered as he unpacked his rations, "Anyone want t' swap?"


He looked around sullenly. Lorana was polishing an apple, which she bit into. Daelanna had a curious-looking basket, which seemed to contain vast amounts of cheese. The others were also unpacking their own more appetizing rations while studiously effecting a sudden outbreak of deafness.

With a heavy sigh, he took some out, arranged a small fire with some tinder and hacked at a couple of the Meat Surprises, chipping off the granite-like outer shell with long sparks. The sparks lit the fire easily, and so he began digging out the more edible insides with one of the daggers concealed about his person.

That night, Reylar and Manjha took first watch while the others slept.

Reylar stretched, "'s been a while since I had such a hard fight... I reckon I'm gettin' soft.", he said, cracking his neck joints. He turned to Manjha.

"So, what y' think so far cutter?"

"Well, we must save the children, but we must not break that seal." Manjha turned to look at him, "What ever is imprisoned there was put there for a reason, probably a very good one."

"'s gonna be tricky." Reylar flexed his fingers, "We still ain't lanned t' dark o' this whole thing. Tha' Ysingrin berk really knows how t' pull strings..."

Manjha nodded, thinking in silence.

Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:58 pm

Re: The Slaad Saga Part 2: Twists of Chaos

Post by Cyker »

Reylar awoke to something nudging him insistently in the head. He opened a bleary eye to find Nick batting at him with a paw.

"Oh pike off..." the mercenary moaned, turning over.


Nick bounded round to the other side and started nudging him again.

With a sympathetic chuckle, Sianan took one of her honey cakes out and set it on the ground.

"Mow!" Nick exclaimed happily, bounding over to it where he attacked it with great gusto.

Smiling at the kitten's antics, Sianan had a quick glance around the camp.

Most of the others were already up - Halad was sitting cross-legged, eyes closed and lips moving silently as he cycled through his prayer beads.

Nag was sharpening his sword, while Thrar and Manjha were helping each other back into their armor.

"Get up you lazy git." Lorana called, giving Reylar a light kick as she went past.

"Damnit, it can't be mornin' already!" he complained, slowly sitting up and reaching for his pack.

The group had a light breakfast before clearing their camp and moving off, Beryl leading them as Lorana scouted.

After a several minutes, she suddenly reappeared from behind a tree, made two gestures, then disappeared again.

"Ruins ahead." Reylar translated, pulling his sword out, "Musties-, uh, undead spotted."

They quickened their pace and soon found Lorana lurking behind a crumbling stone wall. She put a finger to her lips, then thumbed round the wall.

Beyond an arch, covered with moss and vines, lay a rotting wooden trapdoor, surrounded by an assortment of mummified figures, lurching about.

"This'll be pikin' easy after what we've jus' been through!" Reylar grinned.

"Explain to me how is it you manage to still alive?" Lorana glared at him.

"I thought you of all people would be preaching caution." Manjha glanced at him in surprise.

Reylar shrugged.

"Armour first, protect the casters." Beryl motioned to the others, "Ready?"

"Aye!" the others called in assent.

Beryl, Thrar and Manjha immediately rushed forwards, crashing into the first line of mummies. Sianan chanted behind them, sending a wave of holy energy which caused some of the weaker mummies to explode into clouds of dust and stale bandages.

The rest were quickly hacked to pieces by the others.

"Tol' y' it'd be easy!" Reylar grinned.

Lorana rolled her eyes.

"Trap door's jammed," Beryl noted, jamming her sword into the edge of the rotted wood. There was a dull clang as it hit the metal underneath.

Nag grinned wolfishly, "Lemme shows ya how t' duz it!"

Beryl gestured at him.

"Hey, wait, don't you think-" Lorana began, as Nag swung his sword around and hit the door with an overhead two-handed cleave.

The first blow sent wood chips flying in all directions as the rotten wood shattered. The second blow bent the underlying metal, sending sparks up into the air. The third sent the door crashing through the opening it'd previously occupied.

"Very stealthy. I bet nobody heard that." Lorana muttered sarcastically, stepping lithely up to the newly created entrance. After peering inside, she dropped noiselessly onto the dusty floor. She allowed her vision to adjust, giving her new surroundings a cursory scan, then signalled the others to follow.

They found themselves at the top of a short set of stairs. A thick layer of dust covered the steps and floor, and their passing sent whirls of dust spinning away from them as they carefully advanced down the stairs.

As Beryl got to the bottom, there was a sudden tremor, and a red glyph flared up on the ground, centred around her!

"Oh not ag-... hey, you're still here?" Thrar wrinkled his brow in confusion as he looked at Beryl.

Beryl was rummaging through her pack, "The flower! It's gone!!" she exclaimed in surprise and confusion.

"So it begins..."

The party spun round, weapons drawn, to find a man dressed in a loose robe, holding a set of prayer beads similar to Halad's.

"I hope you understand the consequences of breaking the first of the seals?" the monk asked them.

Reylar shivered - The man's eyes were subtly not pointing the same way, and were slightly unfocussed.

"We don't, actually. Care to tell us of what it is we might set free?" Thrar asked, slightly sardonically.

"Its voice grows louder, can you not hear its whispering?" the monk spread his arms, ignoring Thrar.

"He is unhinged," Halad said quietly, his eyes glowing purple as he studied the monk, "Something is eating away at his mind."

"It's Chaos." Reylar said quietly, "I can feel it too."

Lorana shook her head, indeed, there was an insistent... voice?... seeping into the back of her mind with seductive offers of riches and power. She could see that some of the others had noticed it too, but the rest were either stronger or hiding it better than she felt she could.

"It now claws at the weakened seals of its planar cage..." the crazed monk continued, turning in a slow circle as he looked vaguely at the ceiling.

"But we shall not let you free it!"

"Free *WHAT* y' barmy brain-box addled sod! Yer twistin' yer chant worse'n t' Pillar!!"

"Please sir," Beryl tried, "We have no intention of freeing anything other than the missing children! Please-"

"You broke the first seal..."

"We did? But we only just arrived, we haven't done anything!" Beryl protested.

"You broke the first seal, bringing that hellish flower here!" the monk yelled at them, "And for that you will pay the price!"

He danced backwards, chanting random sounds.

"Well crap." Reylar muttered, snapping his visor down.

"Purge them! Purge the puppets of the Imprisoned One!" the monk shrieked.

A group of male and female figures, dressed similarly to the monk and accompanied by several ancient metal automatons, advanced on them out of the darkness.

"Armour front! Archers cover us!" Beryl called, as Manjha, Thrar, Nag and Reylar joined her.

They stood fast as a volley of arrows from Lorana and Daelanna whistled right past them. They struck the golems, mostly bouncing off, while the few that flew towards the monks were snatched out of the air and discarded with movements almost too fast for the eye to catch.

"No use!" Lorana gritted her teeth.

And then the monks were on them.

They danced past the wall that the five warriors made, attacking Sianan who was casting wards of protection on her companions. Lorana and Daelanna switched to their twin blades and sprung forward, aiding Halad as his own martial training went to protect Sianan while she completed her spells.

"Go 'elp them Beryl, we'll ge' this lot!" Reylar shouted as he planted his feet against an approaching golem.

It brought its fist down low, swinging it with a deceptively ponderous movement. Reylar angled his shield and deflected the blow to his left while jabbing his greensteel blade forwards. It failed to pierce the tough metal hide of the golem, but the greensteel blade left a corroding ooze as it scored a deep line into the Golem's side.


Reylar did so a fraction before the blade of Nag's huge sword whistled past overhead, colliding with the Golem with enough force to knock it onto its back.

Manjha and Thrar wasted no time, springing to its side and hacking at the neck and arm joints until they sheared off.

"One down, two t'-GAH!" Reylar's armor glowed as one of the Iron Golems sprayed a poisonous corrosive gas over them.

Reylar took the opportunity to jab his sword into the golem's open mouth as the gas washed harmlessly over him, jamming the opening. The golem shuddered, and gas started seeping out of the golem's joints. Reylar took a step back and the golem followed, but its movements had become sluggish and jerky as the corrosive gas melted its joints, fusing them together.

Nag and Manjha were pummelling the third golem into scrap, while Thrar circled behind the second and hacked off its legs.

As it crashed to the floor, Reylar jammed his sword into the golem's back. It shuddered one last time, then was still.

As they fought, the four monks squared off against the rest of the group.

"You are well trained, do not waste your life like this." Halad implored as he traded punches, counters and kicks with his opponent, but from the manic gleam in the man's eyes he knew his words would go unheeded.

Lorana was exercising the full extend of her fighting skills, combining her fast reflexes with her skills of misdirection. As fast as the monk was, she couldn't predict what the rogue was going to do, and was soon lying in a pool of blood.

As they finished off their foes, Manjha spotted the first one spin away and retreat of the corridor.

"Don't let him get away!"

They chased him further up the passage, but stopped when they found themselves confronted by a new problem.

Chapter 5 - Knives in the Hearts

"The children!" Beryl exclaimed,

"Sommat dun scan right." Reylar muttered, flipping up his visor and staring at the children. They were kneeling with their backs to the group, "There's something wrong."

They were at the end of the long hall they'd come in through. There were two pillars, around which the children were kneeling. To the left and right were two sets of solid metal doors.

Reylar knelt next to one of the children, release his suit seals and snapping up his visor and as Sianan moved next to another child opposite.

The young girl's face he was looking into was completely expressionless, her eyes unfocussed. Unseeing.

He reached out a hand,

"Don't touch them..." Beryl cautioned.

Reylar paused, his hand hovering above the child's head.

"This poor sod's been mindhacked I reckon... Brain-box all addled." he sucked in a breath, retracting his hand, "Las' time I saw a berk like this, t' poor basher'd been kissed by a mindflayer..."

Beryl's eyes widened in shock. She shook her head, "No... we must open the seals... they said they would restore the children to us once we completed their task..."

Reylar stood and moved over to one of the sets of doors. He released the quicklock on his right gauntlet and put his hand against the door. It was old, very old. The surface sheeted off, revealing fresh metal underneath. Removing his helmet, he put his ear against the door. Nothing. Squinting, he eyed the lock, but all he could see was a metal plate.

He pulled a thick pick from his belt and jabbed it in experimentally. There was a faint hiss, and he felt the pick grow warm. Quickly withdrawing it, he found the end had melted off. "Besheba's warts... that was one o' me best picks!"

"They're unpickable." Lorana confirmed with an annoyed tone.

"Hey, there's another passage-" Thrar began.


Another pair of monks leapt out of the dark corridor and attacked Thrar, one kicking him in the head while the other made to strike at his chest with an open palm...

In a smooth motion, Lorana twirled around, unslung her bow and sent an arrow speeding towards him. The monk cried out in pain as a pair of arrows severed his arm at the elbow.

"Good shot Lorana!" Daelanna complimented, looking over her shoulder.


Manjha was already at Thrar's side, and they quickly dispatched the two monks.

"Come, we must hurry!" Beryl said anxiously.

The group ran up the corridor and found another room off the side with more golems, which they quickly defeated.

Halad's keen sight spotted something in a pile of rubble in a far corner of the room.

"Hmm, a key..."

"I bet a mert t' a bent green tha's fer them doors back there." Reylar said confidently, casting round for any thing else of interest.

"Another room!" Manjha called from outside, eyeing another door.

"Locked? Reylar asked as he jogged up to examine the door.

Thrar gently pushed it open, "Nope."

They advanced into the room and found themselves on a wide ledge overlooking a deep chasm.

A familiar figure was standing at the edge. He turned, smiling enigmatically, "Ah, the ones who disturb our sacred duties..."

"Now look cutter, we ain't 'ere t' nark ya..." Reylar began.

"What are you doing with those children?!" Thrar demanded.

The mad monk blinked at him as if seeing him for the first time, "Of course! Children! So the first seal was broken with... yes... but where... what children?", the monk looked confused.

"The children right down the hall!" Thrar pointed back the way they'd come, "How could you miss them?!"

"He shall be free soon..." the monk muttered to the floor, ignoring him, "He shall come for us... us who have kept him prisoner for so long..."

"Who shall?!" Beryl cried in frustration.

The monk's head snapped up to stare at her directly in the eyes, "Madness.... death!"

Beryl shuddered as she stared into the monk's crazed eyes. She could sense the years of torment that had made him this way as the monk broke contact and hopped away from the chasm edge.

"What is it called? How can we prevent it from being freed?" Thrar demanded.

"Prevent! Free? How!" the monk chattered back to him, "Called! A name! What is my name? So long... bound here for eternity! Waiting. Guarding. The Voice! Never ending! Never ceasing! Listening! Talking!"

He suddenly looked at them, "I will end your pain!"

"No, wait, wait!" Daelanna cried, but to no avail.

The monk rushed at them, spinning out of the way of Reylar's swing and flipping over, snapping the mercenary's head up with a vicious kick and leaping onto his chest as he crashed to the ground, palm raised to deal the fatal blow.

With a steady hand, Lorana shot him through the heart.

The monk paused, looking dully at the shaft that was suddenly protruding from his chest. He slowly turned to look at Lorana with clear eyes, giving her a peaceful smile before he toppled over and died.

"Another key..." Halad said tonelessly, kneeling to pick up the key that had fallen from the dead monk's robes.

"The second key!" Beryl exclaimed, "Quickly, we must unlock those doors!"

She led them back to the chamber with the children and quickly unlocked one of the doors on the right-hand side.

The room was covered with dust and cobwebs. At the far end was an altar shaped like a stone hand, and in front of it were three more golems. The one in the center jerked, sending a shower of dust falling to the ground. Its eyes glowed a dull red... brightened, and its head rose to turn its red glare on them.

Sianan instantly began casting protection charms as the rest of the party rushed in.

Nag barged the first one over while the rest attacked the leg joints of the other two.

They were quickly reduced to a pile of scrap metal.

Beryl approached the altar, with Lorana following her.

"Wait..." Daelanna said uneasily.

"What?" Beryl paused.

"Just.... stay away from that..." the elf tried. She realized she was sweating.

"Beryl, we shouldn't unseal this." Thrar agreed. He too had a powerful sense of unease.

"Lorana, come here..." Daelanna said gently.

Lorana ignored her.

"Lorana, right now." Daelanna said more sternly.

"You don't order me around!" Lorana snapped back.

"The altar is... is not a good thing... please step away from it, all of you!"

"Please, if we want the children restored to themselves... I must do this!" Beryl pleaded, her eyes watering.

"No, you do not!" Daelanna persisted, "We will find another way!"

"Yes, we have them now... surely the Duke has people who could restore them without doing... this!" Thrar thrust an arm out at the altar.

"There is no other way Daelanna!" Lorana argued, she turned, "Do it Beryl!"

Manjha looked from Beryl to Daelanna and back again, his mind full of turmoil.... to make the blood sacrifice to free the children, or sacrifice the children to prevent a no doubt greater evil from entering the world?

"Listen to me!" Daelanna cried in desperation, "This is..."

Before she could finish, Beryl slapped the heart into the palm of the stone hand and stabbed it.

As the first rivulet of blood trickled onto the altar, the ground rumbled and a blood-red glyph shone on the ground.

Reylar clutched his head. Pain! It was as if someone had jammed a white-hot lightning bolt into his eyes and brain.


He staggered backwards, backing up against the door.

"Reylar? What's wrong?!" Manjha exclaimed as his friend almost doubled over, throwing his helmet to the floor and wrapping his hands around his head.


"Ngg..! Ch...!"

"Beryl, no no no!" Daelanna cried, "You fool, what have you done?!"

"What I must!" the ranger replied, tears streaming down her face.

"Quickly, the other altar!" Lorana urged, fingering her bow as she and Beryl darted for the door.

"This is not the way! Please, listen to me!" Daelanna cried. She looked at Manjha, "We must stop them!"

Shaken out of his indecision, Manjha leapt at the door, but Lorana got there first, "Move out of the way Reylar!"

Reylar stared at her, his pupils constricted and blood trickling out of one of his ears, "Not... right..."

Lorana gave him a shove, but Reylar grabbed her and pinned her against the wall. Lorana twisted out of his grip and gave him a vicious kick in the ribs before sliding past him as he fell.

Sianan ran to his side, putting a hand on his head and chanting as the others, shocked, ran after the Beryl and Lorana.

"Get up Rey!" Sianan muttered, but the mercenary remained still.

"I have the last key." Halad said calmly as they stood opposite each other, "You cannot proceed."

"Give me the key." Lorana growled.

The quiet intruder in Beryl's mind suddenly spoke with full force, and Beryl winced, clutching her head, *You test my patience!*

Suddenly there was a flash of crimson. One of the children made a noise like a strangled cry, then crumpled to the floor.

Beryl stared in shock.

*How many more must die, sweet one?* the voice mocked. Beryl stared.

"Give us the key, now!" she cried, voice thick with desperation, "He will kill more if we don't!"

Lorana's swords suddenly flew from their sheaths, and so did Manjha's.

"Lorana! Manjha! No!" Daelanna cried.

"Give us the key or I kill this child!" Lorana glared through gritted teeth, one blade resting at the neck of one child while the other was pointed at Manjha.

"Manjha, stay your blade!" Daelanna urged him, unable to take her eyes away from the blade on the child's neck.

"Lorana... listen to me... you will get nothing. This thing is fooling you." Daelanna tried, struggling to keep her voice steady, "You don't like to get fooled, do you?"

"Please open this door. We have no more time!" Beryl said urgently, her voice wavering.

"Your choice... open the door... or watch them die. They'll die anyway if I don't kill them. Decide now!" Lorana said, looking Daelanna right in the eyes.

"You kill that child... by my blade you are next Lor." Manjha vowed, glaring at her with barely contained rage.

Suddenly there was another flash of crimson, and with sigh another child collapsed.

"Give... me... the key!" Lorana repeated, her sword drawing a bead of blood from the child's throat.

"No! Stop! Fine," Daelanna stared in horror.

The glowing eyes of Halad bored into Lorana's as he wordlessly flicked the key at her.

Beryl caught it and quickly unlocked the door, as Lorana withdrew her blades but keeping them pointed at the others, she back-pedaled to follow Beryl into the room, the others advancing on her.

Beryl feverishly pulled the last dragon heart from her pack and stabbed it.

The another red glyph blazed, and the ground rumbled, even more violently than before.

Reylar's eyes snapped open, "No... by the plane of Limbo no!" he staggered to his feet and barged his way into the room.

In his delirious state, he could see the layers of a folded plane unwrap itself. His eyes flicked left, an astral conduit was forming... he watched as a figure began to coalesce... The White Slaad! Ysingrin!

The others watched in mute horror as the white slaad stepped out of a newly formed portal, its lines distorting as it crossed the threshold between planes.

It grinned malevolently at them and seemed to pick something in the air.

Reylar watched, paralyzed in morbid fascination, as he watched the Slaad's claw peel back the last layer of the folded plane, and out stepped something Black.

The party gasped as a Slaad, black like a Death Slaad but much larger, materialized in front of them. Reylar stared in mute horror and dread as he saw clearly for the first time what they'd released.

The Black Slaad took a deep breath.

"Thank you!" it hissed, grinning at them triumphantly. It turned to the white, "Ysingrin? You were but a Green when lassst I sssaw you! How long was I trapped I wonder...decades or millennia? You have my thanksss..."

The white opened its arms wide in deference, then looked to Beryl, "And I thank you sssweet one." it leered at her.

"Right, we've done as you asked, now release the children!" Thrar demanded, shaking himself from the reverie.

The white looked at him, "Ah yesss...the children..."

A coin appeared in its claw, and it flipped it up into the air.

"Tailsss, you lose."

The two of them vanished in a blink. Reylar watched the astral conduit snatch them from the world, but gasped as several more suddenly formed.

"Portals! Ready yourselves!" he yelled.

The others watched, weapons ready, as several portals opened up.

Suddenly a score of Slaadi poured through. Manjha, Thrar and Nag decapitated the first ones through as Lorana and Daelanna fired volleys of arrows into the other portals, but for every one they killed, more arrived.

"Back, outside the room! We'll hold them inside!" Reylar called, his greensteel blade blazing deep emerald as it sliced into a most hated foe.

"We must close the portals!" Daelanna yelled, "Sianan?"

Sianan nodded.

"Cover her!" Manjha ordered, the five warriors mercilessly cutting down the Slaad as they tried to get out of the door way.

Sianan knelt behind them, summoning up the will to cast one of her most potent spells.

She began the long chant, while the others held the door, when suddenly a magical flame arrow shot out of the door directly at her!

"No!" Lorana threw herself in its path, managing to deflect it with her blades before it hit the entranced Sianan.

"We can't let them cast!" Manjha ordered, gritting his teeth, "Take the fight to them!"

"Wait!" Daelanna cried as Sianan stood, a bright aura surrounding her hands. She took a step forwards.

"Begone!" she shouted, her eyes burning fiercely.

The light burst outwards, and the Slaadi jerked backwards. An etheric vacuum pulled at them as they were banished back to their own plane, and soon there was just an empty room.

Sianan looked around, "The children!" she exclaimed.

Daelanna knelt by one. "Dead."

She checked another. It was dead too.

"They're all dead." Halad said quietly.

Thrar whirled on Sianan, "Can you resurrect them?!" he almost begged.

Sianan knelt by one, feeling for its thread. She paused, frowning.

"No... I cannot..." she frowned more.


Sianan stood and looked at him, "They are empty shells. They were long dead before we got here." she squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head with guilt, "I should have known!"

"What have I done..." Beryl collapsed to her knees, covering her face with her hands as she let out an agonized sob.

"Where is Lorana? She dies, now!" Manjha roared.

Daelanna put a hand on his shoulder, holding him firmly, "There has been enough death today." she gave him a sorrowful look.

"She saved me." Sianan nodded.

Manjha sheathed his sword, taking a deep breath and blowing out his frustrations.

"Well, what now."

"We must spread the word. The Duke must be told!"

The others nodded in agreement.

"Right then, back to Brosna. When those overgrown toads pop up again, we'll be ready for them!"
Post Reply