It seemed that the entire group achieved consciousness again at roughly the same instant, and found themselves standing with lanterns in hand. Immediately looking around themselves, they found they were in what appeared to be some sort of cave. Urgral the Horror Stalker looked over at Dremnin’s charge, Hannah, and for some reason stared at her intently for a moment, only to break off his gaze and shake off his vision in distress. Dremnin looked at the dwarf for an explanation, but as none appeared to be forthcoming, he turned his attention to sounds that suddenly reached his ears; the sounds of combat. “I hear a battle down that way”, he said and started to move in that diraction with Hannah in tow.
The Scout and Hannah quickly fell behind the others as they raced down through the rough stone passage of the cave, with the Troubador Suulin in the lead, as she too apparently had heard the sounds of melee somewhere ahead of them. She suddenly turned and went to the right, disappearing from Dremnin’s view, but followed in quick succession by others in the group. When he rounded the corner ahead, the Scout saw Luck and Urgral standing in a choke point in the passage and backed by Suulin, engaged with a wild looking human with clawed hands, and a cunning human warrior. Leaving Hannah to stand in the rear with Vridich and Fafnir, Dremnin advanced to stand next to Ardor the T’skrang Tailmaster as deadly combat raged to their front. On the other side, a large fat man also joined the fray to back his companions against Luck and Urgral, while Suulin added her Arcane Mutterings to assist in the fight.
It was Ardor who quickly found a way to help the two heros in front. While Vridich cast magical strikes on the foes from behind, the t’skrang reached down and picked up a chunk of rock, took aim, then flung the rock with deadly accuracy to strike one of the opponents and draw blood. Quickly seeing the value in Ardor’s graphic example, Dremnin yelled “Yeah Ardor, smack ’em again” while he also selected a jagged stone from the floor and chose the wounded opponent with clawed hands as his target. Floranuus was surely with his two followers in that awful place, as Dremnin’s stone raced to contact solidly on the forehead of the wounded wild man, and he collapsed immediately. This opened a hole in the line, and Dremnin surged through into the larger chamber beyond yelling, “TO ME!”, as he raced forward to find a secure spot ahead of him.
What Dremnin found in the chamber was not a good sight. Three bald men with weapons were backed into the opposite stone wall from where he stood, obviously fighting for their lives against a collection of several wild men, fat men and nimble warriors. One of the bald men was on the ground already, and another appeared ready to collapse. As soon as Ardor came up beside him, Dremnin chose the right flank and moved forward to add his short sword to the battle and attacked one of the nimble-looking warriors from the rear. He aim was good, and he drew blood. Behind him, Ardor also closed to combat and, like a whirling Dervish of Death, began to deliver telling blows to the attacking horde. To their rear, Fafnir had apparently felt his scholar’s blood enflamed and had followed the two heros forward to engage in melee, but had just as quickly found himself surrounded and in trouble.
While Urgral, Luck, Vridich and Suulin worked to free the hapless Fafnir from his self-inflicted plight, Dremnin and Ardor rained their blows on the enemy, who now pressed the bald men closer but turned some of their attentions to the interlopers. Meanwhile in the battle over Fafnir’s poor placement in the battle, the weight of heroes blows took one after another of the enemy down, and both Vridich, Suulin and Hannah entered the chamber. The Nethermancer continued to rain down his magical blows, and Suulin used her Arcane Mutterings to disable the enemy fighters. The battle was quickly coming to a close, and with only a wounded fat man to his front, Dremnin yelled for the opponent to yield and Vridich stayed his hand as well to see if the wounded fat man would surrender. But instead of behaving honorably, the fat man and one companion bolted from the chamber and scurried through the surprised heroes like rats escaping a sinking ship. Fafnir moved into the narrowest point of the entryway to seal that path, and the remaining fat man went down unconscious, allowing the room to be filled only with the sounds of heavy breathing from exhausted fighters.
The remaining bald man looked at the new arrivals with a mix of suspicion and thanks, and moved to check his fallen companions. One of the bald men was still alive, clinging to life and unconscious. As the bald man slipped his dagger into an unconscious opponent on the floor, Vridich came up and used his physician skill to try and help the unconscious bald man. He must have been gravely wounded, because he was just barely stabalized for all of Vridich’s good works. “I wish you had arrived a little sooner”, the bald man said as he surveyed his two dead companions, “but thank you for your help.” The bald man watched as the heroes helped one another and talked in hushed tones among themselves. Some looked at the leather armor and long swords of the dead bald men, which made the sole remaining bald man say, “They have no further use for such things. Our way is that you keep what you kill. You may do with the spoils as you wish.” As Suulin listened at the far southern entrance to the chamber, her ears caught the sounds of footfalls receding in the distance.
Ardor immediately collect the two long swords and passed one to Luck, who then gave the short sword he had been wielding to Suulin. It was the sword of the orc slavemaster from the mines, but it had served them well and the Troubador received it with thanks. The second long sword went to Urgral, the Horror Stalker, who now appeared every inch a dwarven warrior king of old. For he wore the chain armor and spiked helm of Thane Derin Kuyu, and now hefted a long sword as a two-handed weapon to add teeth to his armored mien. The two sets of leather armor soon followed suit, one being given to Swordmaster Luck, and the other to Suulin. The group now felt much stronger for their added weapons and armor. Dremnin called for Vridich to assist him with his wounds while all this was transpiring, as he had sustained a serious wound in battle. Being in better condition than the unconscious baldman, though, the Nethermancer’s successful work was much more apparent, and Dremnin’s wound was almost completely repaired. Now like his companions, the Scout needed only rest and recuperation to restore him.
Some of the group tried to question the bald man about who he was and where they were now, but he continued to look at them with a mixture of disbelief and suspicion. He would tell them only that these scattered dead things were all tainted by Horror, and he suspected that the heroes might be some sort of trick to get him to reveal too much information. But he quickly came upon the logical answer to such claims, using the time-honored way of settling whether beings were Horror-marked or not. He sat down and began to use his artistic talent to draw, clearly demonstrating that he was not marked. Dremnin seized upon the opportunity and sat down next to him, and began to draw a map from memory…a map of Kaer Derin Kuyu. “Don’t share the map with him”, Suulin cautioned, suspecting there was more here than met the eyes, but Dremnin continued to draw using his artistic skills to render a small portion of the Kaer they had just departed. It proved to be the right choice.
The bald man watched Dremnin’s work, and his eyes widened as the map unfolded. “How do you know this Place you draw?”, he asked Dremnin, to which the Scout replied, “Who are you and what is this place?” A question for a question. This apparently decided the matter for the bald man, as several of the heroes had demonstrated his or her artisan skill. It was enough. “Very well”, the bald man said with finality at last, “come with me and I will take you to see our leader. You can tell him your tales, and he will know what to do.” With bulging muscles, the bald man took his wounded and unconscious comrade upon his large shoulders, and simply said, “Follow me”. With their lanterns lighting the way, the party set out to travel to see the leader of the bald men.
Dremnin, Scout Adept
(To be continued…)