I got this’ I said fiddling with the look, inside the echoing chamber of a crypt reeking of dead zombies, arcane magic and cold sweat.
‘I can knock it’ suggested the Halfling that had lost whatever nerve he had when he was flailing his arms around as the bats descended and tore his straw-hat off. The ever ‘oh wow’ ranger had flipped the flaky switch for 10 seconds and nailed the bats to the walls with dead accuracy and then jumped into the battle as we opened the gate and was assailed by zombies out of their frozen slumber.
‘Get me out, now’ said the lady behind the bars.
‘Why would you let me waste a couple of lock picks here when you could knock the door down?’ I was obviously getting a little frustrated because the lock was of such a design that it appeared to stay locked remotely and not by any means where I could find something to unlock. The inner door however leading to a chest seemed to have a lock on it.
I put my tools away and grabbed the ranger from walking off in a random direction and the Halfling cleared his throat before saying something arcane and directed his focus to the door. It shook and then nothing.
‘Didn’t you listen to me?’ said the lady angrily. ‘It locks remotely’ she pointed in either direction.
I stared at her. ‘No you didn’t’
‘I sure did’ she said sourly.
‘What I can remember’ and I reminded her ‘as we got done clobbering those zombies you said over here, open this Shistern door and get me the Shistern out of here’
‘No’ she said and crossed her arms while giving me the lightning curse bolt of immolate death stare. ‘I CLEARLY said that it won’t open.’
I stared at the Halfling for support and when he shrunk another couple of inches I stared at the ranger who gave me a goofy grin which meant nothing.
It was at this moment I realized that winning the argument wouldn’t get her out, get us out of this place and on the next boat off the island. It would only cement the fact that she’d be stuck behind bars and we here freezing.
‘Right, that way’ I stomped off to the left and grabbed the ranger to follow.
You’ve seen fireworks right? Have you ever seen it happen to a spell caster in panic?
So we took the path to the left and the Halfling lit up like it was the day he got his first wand – he saw this crude symbol smeared on the wall ‘it looks just like Gothar the holy’s face…’ and he started studying what smelled and looked like bat droppings when two bats swooped down on the curious wizard. Now try to follow the set of events that remains one of my favorite moments on this retched island. With uncanny speed of a mind that goes from completely retired in a world unlike this one to absolute clarity the ranger turned one bat into a pin couching and I knocked the other one senseless with my shield before killing it. The Halfling took off with a shriek ‘get it off me, get it off me’ ahead of us when heavy rusted iron bars came down from the ceiling and looked the caster in. At the same time hidden doors slid open in the walls and three very rotten corpses shambled out with low growls and moans having the Halfling jump towards me only to grip the bars and shake them as hard as he could.
‘GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW’ he screamed in panic while I looked around for something to open them by.
‘I fry you here till next day if you don’t do it right now’ he continued in heart pounding fear but all I could do was to point behind him ‘run, they’re right behind you!’
The Halfling took off, clearly a lot faster then three zombies, but left to run in circles against opponents with the same wit as the ranger he soon ended up stumbling into the creatures by nature of his speed no matter where he turned.
What happens next was the most impressive display of frantic magic I have ever witness, unlike the deliberate calculated destruction I’ve seen since.
I imagine this is how a spell caster thought about something like Quicken spell, empower or even enlarge. It’s fully possible that these skill sets were developed not in a lab somewhere in some kind of Eureka moment, but in absolute terror and panic.
It started with the blue flash of a lighting bolt illuminating my retina with a terrible hair rising and ozone smelling hiss. Then the ice melting and flesh charring burning hands while running backwards and lastly what looked like acid followed by magic arrows, spanning the spectrum of the rainbow within 10 seconds time – blue, yellow, green and purple and leaving my vision popping with sudden flashing colors.
And as the half remain of the zombie keeled over with a somewhat surprised ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh’ the bars came up with a distinct metal clatter startling the frail wizard so he shot off something with his wand that deflected off the wall and almost hit the ranger.
‘WOW – THAT was AWESOME’ the ranger yelled out eliciting a small grin from the exhausted panting Halfling.
It did man up the Halfling a little. While emptying most of his power over three zombies he had enough to aid us turning the one lever and removing whatever protected it and then across the chamber to the right for the second. He even baked a skeleton climbing out a drain behind me when I and the ranger were busy fighting others coming up in front of us.
The final confrontation with a Wight looking guy, jumping around like a horrible cross between a monkey experiment gone wrong and the ghouls meaner cousin and while it chased the Halfling around the ranger put an end to the undead with an accurate arrow to the chest and a very elegant slice across the face with his swords. I put an end to the skeleton dancing around me as it knocked my sword out my hand so I grabbed my shield with both hands and knocked its head off with it.
The gratitude we got from the lady behind bar was a quick kick to my leg ‘I’m out of here and I’m telling someone’
The Halfling smiled at me and the ranger giggled. I wasn’t sure because of the kick of because he flipped goofy back on again.
I shrugged and opened the inner door and the chest and I dug a pair of gloves out that as I put them on seemed to expand my perception slightly. With frosty pluming breaths we padded our exhausted backs, with the heat from our labored bodies misting around us in the cold. We’d plowed along the stream, hiked up the waterfall and the icy stream and followed it to the crypt to save the ungrateful and we did it without the larger then life Dwarf. While it wasn’t the stuff of songs, it certainly felt nice to be more then a useless crew escorting legends through battle. We were now writing our own ‘heroic’ journey.
So what happened next? On one side of the island we found an old man hiding from fish people in a ruined factory. It was a hard slog – fighting spiders, fish people and Iron ‘dogs’. He promised he’d help us rid the Island from its true menace. And he did – sort of – while opening doors and even a dimensional one at the end, he was as much use to the over all final slog through Misery Peak as a mug without ale or whine. On the other hand we liberated another woman who was a lot more appreciative.
As we got back to town we were rewarded with some gifts and then the final special quest to rid the island from the dragon but luckily it wasn’t anything ridiculous as actually fighting the dragon. It looked like it was under the control by this mind flayer. In the end we destroyed the crystal that held the dragon under check and as thanks the dragon Popsicle froze and destroyed the flayer.
You might want to hear about those quests in more detail, but they’re honestly not that important. To me the bigger part of the whole story was the fact that if anything this strengthened what I felt was my path in life rather then took away from it. When the ranger was ambushed and wounded on our way to the factory I healed him. When we rushed into battle to free the prisoners I strengthened our armor with divine magic and saved the Halfling from deaths door. For every fight for every inch we coordinated our effort, where as I had to be in the front, the ranger switching from support to fighting the Halfling learned how to temper his panic and save his magic for the appropriate moment.
This was our growing ground. In a perfect work all heroes start in obscurity, say big important things, save important people from disaster and do big things as their legends grows where ever that person goes. For us we couldn’t care less.
The last slog through the cavern, dragging our exhausted bodies through the meat grinder for the illusionary notion of being able to leave ended up being reward enough. In the end I hundreds of gold to my name, a couple of decent weapons, set of armor and shield and a growing confidence in my abilities. While I left the ranger to wander the interior of the Island and the Halfling saying that he was going to return ‘this adventure was more then enough’ I left knowing that we’d managed to solve this one big thing as we parted to continue our own stories another day.
That and me managing to win 50 gold from a Dwarf onboard the ship heading to Stormreach