Part 8 : Have Map, Will Travel!
No replies to this topic
Posted 27 October 2002 - 05:57 PM
Twilight part 8 : Have Map, Will Travel
Vierna shook off the dizzyness that had been plaguing her ever since she dropped from the dimension door. Not only did the spell drop her and her party about 6 feet from the ground, but it also made her feel like she had been turned inside-out and outside-in again in a matter of mere seconds. She mused that teleportation-spells weren't like they used to be.
The first this Vierna noticed what that the location she was in now was definately a lot cooler than the arid desert. A bird sang merrily from a tall tree, while she lay on warm grass. Flowers were visited by industrious bees, while the sun shining through the leaves of trees cast quiet shades on the forest floor. After looking around a bit, she noticed, to her relief, that all her friends were there as well, including their camels and the mule Carla, which was happily snacking on the lush grass.
"Ack," Lenny sighed while he and his Drow friend still lay prone of the grass. "I feel like I've been dropped from a high building and then bounced up again after landing on the pavement."
"Ditto," Shivon sighed.
"Better than being digested by a giant reptile," Glyill offered.
"Better," Gerty sighed, "but not by much."
"Where are we anyway?" Lenny asked.
"I know where we are," Vierna grinned while observing the step mountains hugging the large valley as if in a horse-shoe pattern, and then glanced up to the waterfalls in the distance. "We're in the Marching Mountains! Remember that the spell would take us to the nearest person friendly to us?"
"Marching Mountains?" Shivon wondered, then realized..."Oh!!!"
"But something's wrong," Vierna suddenly said and observed some nearby footprints. "If I'm reading this right, some very heavily armored people came through this way only a few moments ago."
A short sprint later revealed a large open area in the wood facing the steep mountainside. There, halfway on the mountain sat Arokh, the gigantic red dragon, looking down with a grin on his scaly face. In the clearing, several armored men were shouting battlecries, while about half a dozen others were shooting bolts at the chucking dragon with high-speed crossbows. Alongside Arokh, sat three young silver hatchlings, looking down upon the spectacle with delight.
Yet more knights were brandishing weapons, getting ready to fight. All the knights were bearing the symbol of the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart, and were apparently led by a graying Helmite bearing a large hammer and a trimmed beard. The only person looking out of place, was a single porty merchant-type.
Arokh took a deep breath and flamed over the startled artillery. When she flames subsided, not a single one of the crossbow-bearing knights had any hair left on top of their head. Arokh arched hit neck downwards and directed a mocking laughter at the knights. The silvers were equally amused...
"Come on," Vierna motioned to her friend and stepped on the battlefield.
"Come, my comrades!" the Helmite spoke in a nasal voice. "We shall slay this foul beast afore morn!" But his fellow knights didn't seem to be so sure about that.
Up the mountain, Arokh suddenly spoke words of power and before the knights has any idea what was going on, their armors had turned into wood, while the dragon once again mocked them heartily. Apparently, the knights were quickly losing morale over that last attack...
"Excuse me," Vierna asked as she had approached the leader, but so far, no one had taken note of her, while the knights stood in formation to discuss their next strategy.
"Excuse me!" Vierna tried in a bit more urgent tone, but still no one took note.
"YO! BEARD-O!" Vierna shouted, making the graying knight jump and crack his new wooden armor.
At first, the knight's eyes grew wide and looked ready to raise his weapon. Then, after he had apparently recognized her, his expression softened. "Vierna DeVir," the knight spoke. "I have heard of you. But somehow, I had expected you to be somewhat taller..."
"I know I am short," Vierna grimaced. "You don't have to rub it in!"
"My apologies," the knight offered. "My name is Sir Delryn. Knight of the Order of the Most Radiant Heart and commander of this unit."
"AAAAHHH!" one of the knights who had dared to go on the offensive by himself ran past the two talking heroes. "MY ASS IS ON FIRE!" he added before jumping in the lake.
"Quite a crack-team you have here," Glyill snorted.
"They are actually," Sir Delryn insisted with a grimace. "One day, I must tell you about our campaign against the Orcish hordes on the Hillsfar plains. But I am wondering, have you come to assist us to defeat this foul beast?"
"Absolutely not!" Vierna shouted. "I want you to stop attacking my friend!"
"Friend?" Sir Delryn said. "This fiend is your friend? This fiend who lives in this hellish terrain?"
In the background, a butterfly landed on top of one of the many flowers of the lush green fields.
Gerty looked at Lenny while twirling her left finger alongside the left side of her head. The Lathanderite paladin nodded in approval.
"I am Sir Leonard Riverstone of the Order of the Aster," Lenny said in his most official tone of voice, making the rest of his party snicker because it was so out of character for him. "I will personally vouch for this dragon, having met him before."
"Order? Hah!" one of the paladins surrounding Sir Delryn spoke up. "You lathanderites have no sense of order OR duty! You just do as you please!"
"Do you want some of this, Helmite rule-boy?" shouted Lenny with his fist rose high in the air. "Well, do you want some? You feel lucky, punk?"
"Okay, shut up, both of you!" Vierna said. "Arokh is a good friend of mine and I want to know what he has done!"
"This beast has been threatening a nearby village to attack if they did not sacrifice a virgin to him immediately," Sir Delryn spoke with contempt.
"Well, step up then, be eaten and end the fight," Gerty muttered under her breath.
"I insist you slay this monster!" an even more whiny voice came from the merchant-type. "Won't someone think of the children! Won't somebody please think of the children!" he added in a dramatic fashion.
"YES!" was shouted from the top of the mountain. "Won't somebody please do?"
"Better hold on to something," Vierna grinned, while she and her friends clasped their arms around trees and rocks. Brimstone simply braced himself. And for a good reason... Arokh jumped down from the mountain... in full dragon-form. He trust his four massive legs downward, making the earth groan in protest as he landed. All the knights and the merchant were knocked of their feet as the ground shook violently. Arokh stepped forward, arched his neck downward to make the merchant stare into his huge maw.
"Yes," he spoke when he stared the shaking merchant in the eye. "Shall we talk about how you had that orphanage next to your house torn down because you wanted a bigger garden? Or perhaps we should talk about how you milk out your tenants with those outrageous rents? Shall we talk about how you had a man imprisoned for a year when he missed a single payment on his loan? Or shall we talk about how you came to my valley three months ago to buy it from me... and to offer me the children you evicted from the orphanage as payment, so you could rent out this lush valley as high-yield farmlands?"
"S...s... surely you do not believe this beast over me?" the merchant, who was now sweating profusely, asked the knights, who were now all staring holes in his skull.
"Break off this fight!" Vierna insisted. "Nobody has been killed yet, and nobody has to!"
"Let me finish the story for you," the dragon roared. "He duped you with that story about the virgin to get you to try to defeat me, while he would move in afterwards and claim the lands. Oh, hi Vierna," Arokh greeted while Vierna waved.
"Ermmm," the merchant, now faced with an angry dragons and angry knights, stammered in fear. "I am innocent..." he spoke in a meek voice.
"I detect no lie," one of the angry paladins said. "At least not from the dragon," he snarled.
"If you need proof," the dragon offered, "I have a document of ownership of this land signed by the Crown of Tethyr..."
"Wellll," the merchant stammered. "Now that I am no longer needed, I'll be off..."
"Just a minute!" Sir Delryn commanded. "Let us have a little chat about those deeds of yours... And then there's the fact that you had almost tricked my unit into a battle which could have gotten us all slaughtered for nought!"
"Yes... And those children," an other paladin said, while cracking her knuckles. "Let's have a long 'chat' about that one too..."
"My... apologies," Sir Delryn offered, and it was obvious he was not used to apologizing, "there seems to have been a terrible mistake."
"No kidding," the dragon snorted. "NOW GET THE BLOODY HELL OUT OF MY VALLEY, YOU LOT OF DESTRUCTIVE AND SANCTEMONIOUS GITS!"
"Better go," Vierna offered. "Oh, and see what you can do about those homeless kids?"
"Do not worry," Sir Delryn offered. "I shall make certain, those children will be housed in a luxurious mansion..."
"But..." the merchant stammered, but the snarls of several angry knights silenced them.
"Ah," Arokh said. "Now that that's settled, you can come in, Vierna,"
"I dunno, kid," Arokh said as he, the young silvers and Vierna's party made their way through the winding tunnel leading down into Arokh's lair. "I've had a lot of problems with humans lately. These knights. People trying to buy my lands. People trying to sell me stuff. There was this guy called Stan, who was most memorable. Tried to sell me something called a Vaccuum-Cleaner, I think. Said it would be all the rage before too long."
"Stan, eh?" Glyill grinned.
"And then those idiots from the Cult of the Dragon have been coming and going. For some reason, they are really insisting I become a Dracolich. You'd think they'd get a clue after I flamed them out of my lair twelve times in a row... I especially don't want them around here now, what with these impressional youngsters staying here," told Arokh.
"Baby-sitting again?" Vierna chuckled.
"Tell me about it," the ancient wyrm replied. "They asked me to mind their hatchlings, but it basically broils down to the fact that my neighbors went off to the moonshae isles for a second honeymoon and they dumped the kids with me... The two males are Ityrij'tjdgh on the left and Udorityj on the right. The female is called Cjtyui'optaj. They've only just learned how to fly."
Vierna glanced over to the three silvers walking next to each other in front of Arokh. They were about the size of cows, wore their wings folded on their backs and had very, very, very shiny hides.
Then, the party entered Arokh's lair, a huge subterranian cavern filled with both books, a laboratory and a HUGE pile of gold. Vierna chuckled when she noticed Gerty's saliva production was going through the roof.
"Ermmm, Gerty," Glyill chuckled.
"Uh?" Gerty grunted while was transfixed on the pile of treasure.
"Gerty," Glyill said, while spinning her gnomish friend around. Then, Gerty spotted it... One of the silvers had secretly lifted Gerty's backpack from her back while she was staring at the gold. And all three now had their head in the large back, while loud chomping sounds could be heard.
"MY TURNIPS!" Gerty shrieked. "THEY'RE EATING ALL MY TURNIPS!"
"Oh," Vierna chuckled. "I forgot to tell you : Silvers love to eat 'human' food."
"Better them than me," Shivon grinned.
"Oh, what a world," Gerty lamented when she stared at the empty bag, while one of the silvers belched loudly.
"There, there, Gerty," Lenny patted her on the shoulder. "They've gone to a better place..."
"Hey! Red Guy!" Gerty shouted. "I demand compensation for the loss of my precious veggies!"
"Sure," Arokh grunted. "Take something from the pile. Just leave me something to sleep on."
"R-really?" Gerty stammered after hearing this unexpected answer.
"Okay!" she said and dove towards the hoard.
"Like I was saying," Arokh said while Gerty was swimming through the gold, not noticing that, during the time the two male dragon-hatchlings were frolicking on the other side of the hoard, the female was following the gnome. "I am thinking of putting up a magical force-field to close off the mouth of the valley. Not that I didn't see those knights coming a mile away, of course... How did you get here, by the way..."
Then, while Arokh transformed into an elf and invited his guests to sit on a couch and seats in the corner of his lair, which he had turned into a nice little lounge to receive his guests, Vierna told the whole tale of stolen hearts, corrupt grand viziers, mysterious mages, lists of spell components, their trip through the desert and their narrow escape from the Hatori.
"May I see this list," Arokh asked, after considering her story.
"Hmmmm," he said after going over it. "This definately is an charm-spell. The other ingredients serve mainly to augment the main spell."
"Charm? That's more than Rabba could tell us," Lenny told Vierna.
"Yes," Vierna thought for a moment. "Any ideas what this actually DOES?!"
"Well, your friend Rabba is right in saying that the working of the spell depends on the precise wording, which you don't know about, but from the look of it, the spellpower is massive. And it's logical to assume that whoever is going to use it, does plan to employ the full extent of its power. There are a lot more charm-spells for which the components are far easier to come by, after all. Someone has invested a lot of time and effort in this."
"And the counterspell, Rabba mentioned?" Vierna asked hopefully.
"Yes," Arokh confirmed. "With the right wording, you can do a lot of different things with this spell. I will make a copy of this list and do my own research..."
"Thanks," Vierna said. "Still, this whole spell-business doesn't sit well with me. Tell me, could you give me any indication what this spell can do?"
"Everything," Shivon muttered.
"Not entirely 'everything'," Arokh added, "but not by much. Think in the direction of extremely powerful items, enslaved nations... or even worse things..."
"Well," Vierna muttered. "Then we'd better get back on the road."
"I will teleport you back to Calimport, if you like," Arokh offered. "Point out on the map where you wish to go."
"We'll leave the camels and the mule here," Vierna said. "Daoud told me Carla has worked hard all her life. I think spending her final years here will be a nice retirement."
"I GOT IT!" sounded from the hoard. A very excited gnome slid down from a golden mountain and was holding a diamond the size of an eggplant. She was a bit too excited, as it turned out. As soon as Gerty rose the gem into the air to proclaim her victory, the female silver took it in her mouth and swallowed it. Gerty looked on with intense sadness as her eyes followed the lump going down the silver's long neck.
"Oh," Vierna giggled. "Silvers love to eat gems too..."
"I'll just... go back to the hoard and look for another one," Gerty tried.
"Gerty," Glyill spoke in a threatening voice. "Time's a-wasting. We are leaving now."
"Hmmm," Arokh muttered to himself. "Looks like I need to spin some more gems out of straw again. I'm running out..."
"You... know... how to spin gems... OUT OF STRAW?!" Gerty raved.
"Come on! Tell me how, teach me! TEACH ME HOW!"
"Gerty, we're leaving," Vierna smiled apologetically.
"OH, MAN!" Gerty shook her head in disappointment as the teleportation-spell whisked her away.
All eyes in the inn were directed at the shimmering hole coming into existence right in the middle of the room. Kasim stopped playing music, guests stopped eating and Daoud stopped washing the dishes.
Then, after a brief flash of blinding light, Vierna, Lenny, Glyill, Brimstone, Shivon and a pouting Gerty stood in the middle of the inn.
"Ah, this is most fortuitous, memshahib Vierna!" Daoud greeted heartily.
"Your rooms and a fine meal await you! And you must tell me all about your adventures in the perilous desert!"
"Thanks," Vierna smiled. "We all could use a cold drink right now."
"Say no more!" Daoud smiled friendly and grabbed some mugs.
"Ah, home sweet home," Lenny said. "Well, kinda sorta..."
"Ah, my cousin Rabba has much information for you! He has asked you to join him tonight in his house so he can share it with you. He asked you to bring a map of the Muzad as well! I say you'd best prepare for a dungeon trek, my friends."
Vierna and her friends, after having had a delicious belly-bursting meal and a few hours of rest, had decided to split up and buy supplies for the coming adventures. Vierna had taken the task of finding a decent map while Glyill and Lenny (thank the gods) had decided to buy the rations. She grimaced when she remembered the three-turnipmeals a day when Gerty had last taken care of that business.
After asking some directions, she had finally found the map-shop, but to her surprise, she ran into a familiar figure.
"Welcome, welcome, welcome!" the salesman walked up to Vierna wearing a plaid blazer, a pirate hat and flailing arms. Glancing upwards, Vierna noticed many multicolored flags hanging over the open window, adorning the sign 'HONEST STAN'S USED MAPS'. "So when I saw you coming in, I said to myself : 'Self, boy that looks like she girl needs a good map!' And I can read in your eyes that you do!"
"Weren't you in the used camel-business?" Vierna asked.
"Oh, sure," Stan grinned. "But that was a long time ago..."
"Two weeks," Vierna said.
"Anyway, this my newest venture! Look around, what do you need? We got old maps, new maps, roadmaps, secret maps, treasure maps, magic maps, forbidden maps, ancient maps, sea maps, desert maps, dungeon maps, palace maps, city maps, sabban maps, tourist maps, wildernis maps, maps, maps and more maps!"
"Wow, those sure are a lot of maps," Vierna said, while noticing all kind of maps strewn and displayed all over the store.
"Sure! Enough maps to make you happy! And when you're happy, I'm happy! So tell me, what can I do to see you walking out of that door with a brand new used map today!"
"Is that splattered blood all over that map there?" Vierna asked.
"Ah, just remember : Just because the maps are good, doesn't mean the adventurers that used it were!" Stan raved. "That map was found among the corpses of several young adventurers and fell into my hands for a reasonable price!"
"Nice," Vierna grimaced. "But I'm looking for a map of the Muzad!"
"Ah, when you entered I was thinking to myself : 'Self, this here is no ordinary rube'. Walk this way," Stan said and led Vierna to a small vault. After opening the vault and blowing off the dust he handed Vierna an old ratty map. "There are dungeons that never change and are never in use, but the Muzad is a very different type of animal entirely. The Muzad has been forming and changing over the last ten-thousand years, meaning every map will be out of date the very day they are published. So what you need is a MAGIC MAP! One that CHANGES WITH the dungeon as the dungeon ITSELF CHANGES!"
"Don't shout at me!" Vierna grimaced. "I'm standing right next to you!"
"YES!" Stan raved. "Now YOU TOO can own this FINE MAGIC MAP! It was owned my a little old Sharran who went to the bloodsacrifices once a year in the secret Muzad temple! She had the habit of losing her way, you see..."
"Any accessories?" Vierna asked.
"Does it?! What about a built-in compass!"
"Fluorecent ink for those dark tunnels!"
"Fireproof coating for those clumsy party-members!"
"Hmmm, Gerty has been known to..."
"Magical Fold-Up enchantments!"
"Optional 3-D mode,"
"What's a 3-D?"
"Add-on cuffs for those windy days!"
"Could be useful..."
"Keys for the Add-on cuffs for those windy days!"
"How much already?"
"For you... Only 6999.99 gold! But I'm losing on it!" Stan said.
"Bit steep," Vierna added.
"Can you put a price on quality? Would you rather that you and your friends die of starvation in a maze, cursing yourself for not buying this map?" Stan mock-sniffed. "I get it... It's the little man, no? You are afraid to tell your boyfriend about spending this much money? Stand up to him! You'll have a better relationship in an instant when he sees you coming home with this fine map!"
"I dunno," Vierna said.
"Buy now, and I'll throw in six magical torches for your leisure!"
"Hmmm," Vierna replied and rubbed her chin. "SOLD!" she finally said.
"Ah, I've changed my mind... You can keep your money... I rather not part with a map as beautiful as..." Stan started to say, but when he noticed Vierna's purse, he snatched the gold... "Then again, a deal's a deal!"
Vierna stepped outside, holding a brand new (used) map and was getting all excited about her coming dungeon trek. 'But still' Vierna thought to herself, 'I still can't shake the feeling I've just been had...'
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users