Author’s Notes and Thanks to various people:
Hi all. Just let me give a little bit of background here real quick. The story that you are about to look over started out as a mod. It is, overall a product of two years of my life – blood (Mine), sweat (Definantly mine) and tears (Those most likely came from SHED and SCONRAD from the Modding forum when they saw my attempts at coding…) Anyway, after two years or so of banging my head against my desk, I decided that I was to computer illiterate to mod, but I hated to just DELETE all my dialog and ideas. Thus I switched to FanFic and you will now see the results of my…labors.
On the other hand, if anyone reading out there LIKES my ideas and DOES know how to Mod NPC’s and has the time…Please drop me a line and we can play lets make a deal.
Now that the self serving junk is out of the way I want to thank a few people and then let you get on with getting on. First on my list is SHADOWHAWKE – Moderator extraordinaire’, who helped me with advice and a beta read. Next up would be SHED and SCONRAD for support when I was trying to do this as a NPC/adventure Mod.
This story will be “rated” somewhere between “PG13” and “R” if you worry about such things. This is due to language and double-meanings in some places. Hope y’all like and will comment.
BALDUR’S GATE: PATHWAYS
“Are you sure you want to go on this way, Auric?” October Chill asked the stout dwarf as she followed him through the narrow opening vent of the mine shaft. The gouge in the rock had started off okay, but had narrowed to a very tight fit for the group within a hundred yards or so. Now, it was so confining that their shoulders were scraping the sharp bare stone with every step. ‘Hell, Ironclad probably has to walk sideways by now.’ October thought, imagining the sight of their huge colleague. He was now a couple of people away from her in the group, trying to negotiate the constricting passage. The red-haired woman turned her head slightly to see if she could make out her large friend’s hulking form, but couldn’t get him into her line of vision. She knew he was back there but couldn’t turn her head far enough to flash him a smile, nor turn her body enough to get his attention that way. Besides, it was far too dark to see, anyway. Turning back to look onward at what little was visible through the passage; October Chill had just enough time to see the jutting spike of rock before she ran into it. The outcropping smacked her hard in the left side, just above the kidney, sending a bolt of pain through her and forcing a good bit of air from her lungs. The Wardancer knew that she hadn't suffered any damage, but figured that the stone might have torn a few links in the chainmail armor she wore - which would have to be fixed, of course, the next time they stopped to rest; a process that might take half the night. ‘Oh this is SUCH a bad idea!’
“Just a wee bit more, methinks.” Auric Maplebeard, the dwarven leader of the group called back to her; his roughly hewn voice coming from about stomach high. “We’ve made it this far in good time, w’might as well get to the passageway leading down to the next level before stopping for a rest.” The dwarf stroked his long golden beard as he spoke, though October, not having the benefit of infravision, couldn’t see it in the dimly lit cave. “Be on yer guard though people, this places is burstin’ w’beasties…as I hopes y’noticed.”
‘And Auric claims that dwarves have no sense of humor.’ October thought with a wry smile in the darkness, still rubbing her throbbing side through her armor. ‘If we hadn’t known about the ‘beasties’ down here we’d have been dead three levels ago. Course, if it wasn’t for the problems the things are causing, we wouldn’t be down in these stinking mines to begin with.’
“No, really, Auric?” This sarcastic comment came from Chinga Tau, the group’s resident sorceress, healer and cynic, as the elven woman picked her way carefully through the winding passage. Chinga Tau had no problem avoiding the outcropping of rock that had done the number on October’s midsection, as she, like Auric, was endowed with the ability to see clearly in total darkness. The lovely, if often-times crotchety, young elf could have probably danced a jig through the narrow tunnels without missing a step - not that she would have ever considered doing something so undignified. “I never would have guessed.”
The mineshaft echoed with the dark, though good natured, laughter that came from behind the metal mask that covered the healer’s face.
“Me either.” The soft, slick addition was tacked on by the dark brown ferret, Shadow’s Kin, who sat on Chinga Tau’s left shoulder and curled comfortably around her neck with his tail nestled in her cleavage. The slinky, soft-furred animal took a grape that his mistress offered him and chewed on it, as content as any familiar could be with the juicy gift.
“I am all for the idea of stopping, or better yet, going back and finding another way through to the lower reaches.” This voice came from near the end of the line of adventurers making their way through the darkened mineshaft and sounded echoing and hollow, as one might expect, coming from an iron golem as it did. “It is not easy to get through this passage,” Ironclad went on resolutely. “And I fear that soon I will have to stop entirely, if the path does not widen. I will of course bow to your judgement, friend Auric.”
‘He still sounds so melancholy.’ October mused to herself. ‘Though his following Auric’s orders goes without saying.’ The golem, Ironclad as he was now called, had been the creation of a mad wizard - now deceased - who had been paranoid about protecting his treasures. Maplebeard, along with a different group of Silverblades than the one he now commanded, had chanced upon the wizard’s lair during an assignment and somehow managed to free the huge hulking creation from his slavery. Neither of them had ever said just how this was accomplished but it was known that Ironclad had been of great value in defeating his former master and had since become fiercely loyal to the dwarven fighter who had given him his freedom. ‘I don’t know what he’ll do if this passageway gets too tight for him to get through, he lives to follow Auric.’ Even as the thought came to her, the redhead had to twist sideways to get though a particularly narrow portion of the underground trail. The woman wondered how Ironclad, at almost nine feet tall, could ever hope to go on; the path being what it was. Several times she had heard the loud scrapings of rock clanging off the golem’s metal hide but there was a limit to how far even his limitless loyalty could force his gigantic frame through.
“Enough o’ this now!” Maplebeard rasped, stepping over a large pile of broken rock. “We’ll stop just up ahead here. I see a clearing where th’ tunnel opens up some. Let’s just get there and then see what w’can see.” The dwarf hefted his battle axe and picked his way over the debris covered floor of the mineshaft, his eyes easily picking up the severed forearm that lay slightly to his right. A battle had taken place in this mine, and not to long ago if the torn limb was any indication. The blood and gore clinging to one end of the ripped appendage was still fresh and glistened, in his enhanced eyes, wetly...
“Stopping ahead does seem like a good idea.” Calcutta Fate intoned, pulling his cloak tightly around his body and adjusting the hood. “It’s freezing down here and I’m getting hungry.” The man ran his fingers through his short beard, preening and twisting his head this way and that as he groomed. “Besides, we’ve been at this for hours. Better to stop for a bit and start again refreshed and with full stomachs.”
October waited, smiling in the darkness, for the remark that she knew was coming. It didn’t take long.
“You’re always cold, prissy human, and if there has ever been a time when your belly was full I’ve never heard of it!” Grimloch Bane’s growl was low, well low for an ork, but still piercing in the narrowness of the tunnel. “And you are saying you are tired as well? Perhaps you would like for me to carry you so you do not wear out your dainty feet, yes?”
“No thanks.” The thief popped back. “I’ve just washed my leathers and would find it difficult to get the smell out again should you carry me.” Calcutta chortled. “But I thank you for your concern over my well being just the same... Ox!”
“Oh no problem at all.” Grimloch replied, sounding even snider than orcs do under normal circumstances. “I am, as always, merely concerned for you. Human meat is not as durable as the flesh of orcs and your trembling whines worried me. I am pleased to hear that you are merely cold, as usual. I was thinking that perhaps you were frightened of being this deep underground and needed me to protect you; as your mother is not here!”
“Wish she was, barbarian.” Calcutta answered brightly. “She’d wipe the floor with you, clear out the mess of things inhabiting this cave and get us to the nearest tavern to lift a few in short order. Mum would even be nice enough to carry you to your room after she drank you under the table, that’s just the type of dame she is.”
“I said enough!” Auric bellowed, stopping and half turning to glare at his group. “Remember you are Silverblades, and remember how we’ve had to fight to get this far! Get overconfident and y’might get dead!”
“Right boss.” October answered, laughing slightly. She didn’t blame Auric for wanting to maintain discipline but still wondered if he understood the futility of trying to shut Grimloch and Calcutta up once they were on a roll. The woman shook her head slightly at the very idea. The orc barbarian and the human thief had been going back and forth for close to a decade of travel and adventures; and were thick as blood brothers, though neither would admit to it unless under torture. Simply ordering them to stop sniping at one another was nothing more than a way to get more air into the tunnel. “I hope you’re right about that clearing being close though. You folks with infravision have no idea how annoying it is to travel in the dark like this after awhile.”
“I…If you’d like, I can…uhm…do a Fairylight spell, October.” Piper Blue called to her, his voice cracking with youthful exuberance.
“NO!” The five other members of the group, October Chill among them, ordered, as one; stopping the boy midstride in the magical gestures he was making to enact the spell.
“Oh, uhm, well…Okay.” The teenager stammered and gave up on his ministrations. “Thanks for thinking about it though, uhm, Tobi.”
‘The problem with men,’ October thought silently to herself. ‘Is that they start out as boys.’ She smiled, thinking of Piper Blue’s fresh cheeked young features and knowing that she’d feel his eyes on her if they were in a better lit area - any better lit area. ‘Alright, he’s way too young for you and has a lech for anything female in short armor, but what do you expect at his age. Plus the attention is nice, and hells, he’s a prince - more or less. It wouldn’t hurt to let him cast a spell or two on my behalf.’ The Wardancer frowned slightly, considering the issue and deciding that, yes indeed, it might hurt after all. Piper Blue was the newest, not to mention youngest, member of the Silverblades; and while he tried hard and would go to any lengths to help the group, his spell casting ability was still haphazard at best. For about eleven of his fourteen years he had trained as a bard in his father’s court and it was only in the last six months that he had taken to the training of a serious mage.
As a result, his spells were…inconsistent.
Sometimes that was a good thing - like the time they had been in battle and he had attempted to cast a Bless spell on the group to help them out…only to wind up sending Fireball at the dozen or so lycanthropes they had been facing.
Other times - the time Piper had wanted to wow the Silverblades by creating six ham sandwiches for them to eat and instead brought to life sixteen giant scorpions who wanted to eat them, came to mind - it could be a very bad thing indeed.
The kid tried hard and, most of the group agreed, would someday make an excellent wizard. Still, it would be dangerously tempting fate to allow him to cast an unnecessary spell in the close quarters they currently found themselves in.
“Tis like dealin’ with children I tell ye’.” Maplebeard muttered, loud enough for the others to hear. “Y’d think we were’a village class on a schooling exploration b’the sound o’ things.”
“Really…daddy?” Chinga Tau quipped primly, and then chuckled behind her mask at the expression on the dwarf’s face as he half swung around to look at her.
“Are we there yet?” Piper Blue added, much to Auric’s displeasure.
“Yes, I need to tinkle. Can we stop soon?” The words, coming from Grimloch Bane’s heavily fanged orcen mouth brought a titter of unexpected laughter from October. She bit it off hard and pretended to cough.
“Enough, Blades.” The redhead announced before Maplebeard could explode into a dwarven rage. “We’ve had our fun now but Auric is right, these caverns are no laughing matter. Blowing off steam is fine but let’s get serious again and stay alert. There could be more ‘beasties’ down here and it wouldn’t do to get taken unawares.” October listened to the inevitable grumbling but was pleased to see that the group saw her logic and quieted down. “And,” She added, directing her comments at their leader. “It might not be a bad idea to stop soon regardless. Being overly tired could be as deadly as inattentive flippancy.”
“Aye. Ye’ be right at that.” The dwarf grudgingly answered. “Stop then we will. Methinks I sees an opening just up ahead there where these infernal tunnels open up some. Be as good a place as any to sit a spell.”
“Isn’t it getting a wee bit lighter as well, don’t you think?” Calcutta Fate asked, looking left to right. “Seems like it somehow.” The group continued on a dozen or more steps while no one saw fit to reply. “It’s definitely lighter.” The thief went on. “Though the light seems bluish.”
The Silverblades walked on, picking their way through the passageway warily as it opened up into a fair sized room. The place was unremarkable, plain rock walls, ceiling and floor of the same stone and mineral composites as the rest of the mineshafts they had encountered. What made this hollow different was that it had clearly been tunnelled out from the existing cavern rather than formed as a natural offshoot of it.
There was also the small mater of the gently glowing archway that stood directly in the middle of the passage.
“This be somethin’ new.” Auric muttered walking around the archway and giving the archway a close looking over. The thing was about three meters high, the top of it still a comfortable foot or two from the roof of the cavern, and maybe a meter thick. It was composed of jagged looking bits of blue and green stone that glistened and gleamed with a soft inner light. The most amazing thing about it was that, although the center of it was open and looked empty; when Auric walked around it to stand at the other side, he looked distorted and vague as though he was being seen from the other side of a clear but rapid waterfall.
The dwarf squatted down on his haunches and pushed the butt of his battle axe through the opening. Instantly the heavy solid wood began to bend; not like wood but more like melting taffy over a strong fire. Maplebeard pulled his chopper back without pause and inspected the hilt for damage. Finding none, he scowled.
“Curiouser and curiouser.” Chinga Tau murmured.
The others stood around watching the archway. To a person they had never seen anything like it before, and between them they had travelled most of Lancadia at one time or another.
“I don’t sense any magiks at work here.” Piper Blue said, taking a step forward and peering into the odd opening. “It looks kind of like a doorway.” The boy poked his wand into the liquidy looking yet empty center and watched as it warped and bent in the same way Auric’s axe handle had. “Or, maybe a gateway?”
“Aye.” Was Maplebeard’s only reply as he watched the young prince remove his wand from the swirl.
“But to where?” This from Ironclad.
“These stones appear to be individual pieces.” Calcutta Fate remarked, stepping up and slipping his dagger under the edge of one of the jutting stones. “I believe I could pull one out and -”
“Touch nothing Calcutta!” October began, as a ghastly shriek filled the cavern! The wardancer started to draw her sword when the entire tunnel filled to capacity with a blinding light that struck the group of Silverblades with the force of a dragon - with gas! The light seemed to have physical power behind it and it hit them all head on and unprepared.
October Chill, member of The Society Of The Silverblades, wardancer from the city of Trazlour on the continent of Lancadia; never got to complete her sentence. Her world first went gray, then went away entirely.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Pathways - Prologue (and Notes, Thanks and such
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