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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Two (Beyond Kara-Tur - Part Five: The Forger of Souls)

Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
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Killian was startled by the sudden blast of cold, nearly losing his footing on the ice that covered the floor. Killian guessed the freezing temperature had something to do with the square hole in the ceiling. Mounds of ice had collected around the rim of the hole. Looking into the depths of it, saw nothing but ice. Thunder quickly moved down the hallway.

For several minutes they went down the winding corridor. Killian's teeth chattered involuntarily as he attempted to rub some warmth back into his sword hand. Thunder seemed unfazed by the cold as he continued his steady pace.

A door finally appeared ahead. Killian sighed in relief. As they approached the door, Killian noticed the door handle lying broken upon the ground. The strange thing was all around the door handle the ice on the ground had melted. Thunder stepped over the handle and walked up to the door. Thunder then looked along the edge of the doorway. Killian noticed what he was looking at; a wire poked out of the edge of the closed door, severed into two pieces.

Killian was glad they had a rogue ahead of them. Killian was so cold he would have just barreled through the door to find any warmth.

Thunder cautiously laid a hand on the door and briefly scanned it. Moving suddenly, Thunder slammed into the door shoulder-first. There was the sound of wood splintering as the wooden door was torn from its hinges. Killian wondered if he'd ever get used to Thunder's sudden movements and actions.

Thunder moved into the next room, holding his torch high. Killian moved to follow him, rubbing his numb limbs. In the next room, all the ice was gone. Killian was relieved by the sudden rush of warmth and began to brush the ice that had collected on his clothes off.

The room they were in was fairly small; it was easily ten paces across. At the other end of the room was a lone door. Thunder stepped up to the side of the door and beckoned Killian to open the door. Reluctantly, Killian took hold of the door handle and pulled it open. Inside was another room, even smaller than the one they were in.

The floor, walls, and ceiling were all constructed with wooden planks. Blocking entry into the small room was a line of wooden railing that extended from either walls.

"Wait here," Thunder opened the railing and stepped in.

As soon as he shut the railing behind him, the small room Thunder stood in began to lower slowly. Eventually, Thunder passed from sight. Killian noticed two ropes attached to an assortment of gears atop the thing Thunder was in, both ropes moving opposite directions. After a moment, the ropes stopped their movement. A second later, they resumed moving, this time moving opposite to the direction they had been going before. A few seconds later the box reappeared, slowly raising up to where it was before.

Killian cautiously opened the railing and stepped in. As soon as the railing shut behind him, the box shuddered. Killian grabbed a hold of the railing to keep his balance when he started to lower. Thunder came into view as Killian lowered to the next floor. The box began ascending once again as soon as the railing closed.

Thunder was crouched to the ground, studying some chalk marks on the stonework in the floor.

Killian was getting tired of the silence. "What is this place and why did you bring me along?"

Thunder glanced sharply at Killian. "How much did you hear last night?"

Killian winced. "Not enough, apparently."

"Indeed," Thunder said sarcastically.

"What brought you to Valdaire? It couldn't be a coincidence that you showed up right before the nightcloaks attacked."

"It was no coincidence. It could only be the will of the gods that I happened along when I did." Thunder stood and began striding down the hallway they were in. Killian had no choice but to follow.

"What's it like being a paladin?" Killian asked curiously.

"It's a lot different than what some people think it to be," Thunder said.

"Most think paladins just protect the innocent and destroy evil. We do that, but there are hundreds of other things we do. We act as advisors, generals, as well as diplomats to name a few."

"What made you become a paladin?"

Thunder shot a glance at Killian before turning away. In that brief glance, Killian had noticed a flash in Thunder's eyes that looked like either shame or sadness. Thunder was silent for a few minutes.

"Several years ago, I had once served in a company of knights for a kingdom thousands of miles to the southeast, deep within Kara-Tur. We were part of an assault force against the capital of a rivaling kingdom."

Thunder took a deep breath as he continued. "We assaulted the city expecting victory. The enemy caught us by surprise, tearing through our forces. I survived, but became a slave, forced to fight in the arena for the enjoyment of others. It was then that I discovered I wielded certain... powers. At the time I had been angry, so I could not recall how I had done it. But I have learned to harness that power and use it whenever I wish, which isn't often. I was sentenced to be hanged because of all the deaths I caused with my powers.

"I was privately hanged an officially pronounced dead. I chose another name for myself and was forced to serve as a mercenary." Killian had no clue how Thunder had been hanged but was still alive, and kept silent. "No sooner did I arrive at the base camp we were assaulted by hordes of dragonkin. Once again, I miraculously survived.

"It was then that I was able to make the decision I had made when I first found out my home kingdom had fallen to my enemy's hands. I had failed my people, my home. The only way to pay for my failure was to pledge my loyalty to the gods and die in service of my patron diety.

"So I traveled for thousands of leagues, searching for a patron diety. Then, I entered the land of Faerun. It was when I came to the Dalelands to the west of here that I finally chose my diety to serve. I have served Helm's cause well ever since."

Thunder fell silent when Ethan came into view. No sooner did they spot Ethan that he cursed. A loud clank sounded out in response to the curse. The ground beneath Ethan suddenly began moving. Ethan promptly lost his footing and fell on his back as the floor he was on slid him away into the darkness.

Thunder chuckled when the ground finally stopped moving.

Ethan's voice sounded out from the depths of the darkness. "Will you please stop waving that torch around? You'll be the death of me yet if you keep this up. Wait, the night sight grease just wore off. Can I have some light please?"

Thunder laughed aloud as he strode down the hallway after Ethan. Killian followed, loosening his death grip on the sword handle. When Ethan was back in the torchlight, he puled out a torch of his own and lit it. Ethan was standing near a set of turning blades which stood out from crevices in the ground, but didn't seem to be spinning. At the end of the hall they were in was a single door.

Ethan hurried up to it and studied it. Several minutes passed before Ethan finally mumbled to himself and snapped a wire hidden somewhere. He then opened the door and stepped in, Thunder and Killian followed.

The room they entered was large and circular. The ceiling overhead was easily twenty feet in height. As soon as the door shut behind them, Killian heard a faint click. Before he could say anything, the sound of grinding stone filled the room. Ethan cursed again. Killian looked up to see the ceiling slowly lowering, covering a foot every few seconds.

Killian tried to calm his rising panic as Ethan stepped up to the lone door on the other side of the room. He looked all over the door and muttered angrily before reaching down to his belt. Locks lined the left side of the door. Ethan then pulled out a lockpick from the inside of his belt.

The ceiling was a little under fifteen feet in height and was still lowering. Ethan had two locks unlocked already with a little over half a dozen more to go. There was a snap and Ethan let out another curse. Ten feet. Four locks left.

Killian hoisted Ethan up to the other locks he couldn't reach. The lost lock opened and Ethan swung open the door followed closely by Killian and thunder. Killian looked back to see the ceiling slowly lower to the ground, covering any exit or entry.

"I am sorry," Ethan said angrily. "But I really hate *Blackstone."

The three continued down the passageway they were now in. Killian lost track of time as Ethan continued to disable, jam, and set off traps.

They finally entered into a short hallway. At the end of the hallway was an arch. Within the arch was what seemed to be a wall of water, ripples spreading across it. Several feet in front of the archway were two statues, both on opposing sides of the hall. Both statues looked to be humans in plate armor with large swords slung across their backs.

Killian stood at the back of the group, Ethan in front, and Thunder in the middle. Suddenly, without warning, Ethan slammed right into something. He took a few steps back, shaking his head and rubbing his face. Thunder stepped up and laid a hand on what Ethan had crashed into and gave an experimental push. The invisible wall appeared to be located between the two statues.

"Blasted magical traps," Ethan took off a pack that he had been carrying and fiddled around inside of it. "Invisible walls are fairly common in this kind of place, so it's always handy to have one of these." Ethan pulled out a clear crystal dagger.

He then shoved the dagger into the space where the invisible wall was located. He released his grip and spat into both gloved hands, the dagger seeming to float in mid-air. Ethan then pulled and pushed at the dagger, but to no avail. The dagger was stuck where Ethan had inserted it.

"Must be some strong trap," Ethan beckoned Thunder to help.

The two struggled with the dagger. After a second of struggling, the entire invisible wall became visible. It looked to be a stone wall. Strands of lightning suddenly shot from the wall, striking both Thunder and Ethan. The two flew from the wall, skidding to a halt on the ground a dozen paces away behind Killian. Neither of them moved from their positions.

Killian blinked when he looked back and saw the two statues near Thunder and Ethan. Killian turned to look at the archway. The two statues and the wall that had been there moments before were now gone. stone wall. Strands of lightning suddenly shot from the wall, striking both Thunder and Ethan. The two flew from the wall, skidding to a halt on the ground a dozen paces away behind Killian. Neither of them moved from their positions.

Killian blinked when he looked back and saw the two statues near Thunder and Ethan. Killian turned to look at the archway. The two statues and the wall that had been there moments before were now gone.

Killian could feel a slight urge to step into the archway. He had no idea what sorcery could be at work and glanced at the prone forms of Thunder and Ethan. Neither of the two had moved. Killian then felt his legs begin to move. The archway slowly began to get closer until Killian finally stood in front of it. He could see his reflection dimly against the watery surface.

Killian then closed his eyes and walked into the archway. A cool feeling tingled all over him. He opened on eye slightly.

He stood in an enormous cavern. Small waterfalls trickled or poured down the glistening stone walls. Small springs and ponds covered the ground. Shiny stones and crystals glinted against the walls, ceiling, and floor. Killian was so awed at his surroundings, he nearly missed the two statues at the other end of the cavern.

Both statues were elven women covered in flowing dresses. They were both easily the most beautiful women he had ever seen before. Both stood side by side and sat unmoving as he approached.

Two female voices suddenly echoed across the cavern in unison.

"From across the desolate wastes, through the forests of Chult, few enter the caverns of the Twin Standing Stones. What name was the one who approaches born with?"

Killian nearly forgot it was a question the voices had put him in such a trance. "Oh! Uhm.. Killian Tallis."

Both voices suddenly began to say things in strange languages, both saying different words at the same time, making it all impossible to understand. Both voiceswas the one who approaches born with?"

Killian nearly forgot it was a question the voices had put him in such a trance. "Oh! Uhm.. Killian Tallis."

Both voices suddenly began to say things in strange languages, both saying different words at the same time, making it all impossible to understand. Both voices suddenly went silent.

"Killian Tallis, son of Farseer Alron Txetichau of Cormanthor," The two voices finally said in unison.

"My father is Erik Tallis!" Killian shouted, but the two voices went right over him.

"The Forger of Souls, Aeir Ne'hem, is returned!"

Killian gaped. The Forger of Souls? What was that?

"From the prophecies long told, let the Forger of Souls ride forth and bend the world to the gods' wills. Raise forth the banner of the Forger and gather the followers. Forger of Souls, let thy ears attend and listen.

"Within Faerun, along the Inner Sea, lies an isle where the Aeir Ne'hem is to be trained. From ancient blood forged by the higher Race, the Forger is trained by the human who is not human. The prophecies will be known and the followers will gather. Kings and emperors will bend to your will, and lands will fall under the Aeir Ne'hem's rule. The Day of Reckoning is near, yet far away. The Dark Mistress is freed, but must be stopped. The Tainted Ones gather, but the Higher Race must reclaim what is theirs."

Killian suddenly noticed two small holes appear in the wall behind the statues.

"Step forward, to receive what you seek. The signs of the Chosen, the exit you seek."

Killian cautiously stepped up to the two holes. The insides were dark, so he couldn't see what was inside. Taking a deep breath, he shoved both of his hands into the holes. Nothing happened. Killian stood there for a moment before attempting to pull his hands out. Something suddenly latched onto his wrists, holding his hands in place.

As suddenly as that had happened, a searing pain shot up Killian's arms. Killian gasped from the pain in the top of his hands and pulled to get them free. The things holding his wrists suddenly disappeared. Killian nearly fell on his back from the suddenness of it. The tops of his hands burned with pain. He looked to both of his hands and gasped.

Both of his hands were beginning to get puffy and red, but he also noticed they had strange symbols branded onto them. The symbol on his left hand looked to be a curved line with a dot on the inside of the curve. On the outside of the curve were two short dashes. The symbol on his right hand looked to be a cross with one dot on either sides of the long line and beneath the horizontal line. What they could mean, Killian was not sure of.

"Let the banners show, let the Dark One's know, Aeir Ne'hem, the Forger of Souls, rides forth," the two voices echoed.

Killian looked back to the statues... and saw a lone banner standing between where the two Standing Stones had once been. The Twin Standing Stones had disappeared. Killian stood and stepped cautiously around the banner, examining it closely. The staff holding the banner up looked to be made of a glossy-looking dark brown wood.

The banner itself was made of silk. Emblazoned across the white banner was a hammer that was unlike any Killian had ever seen before. One end ended in a large flat space while the other end was fashioned into the shape of a leaf. The hammer hovered over a wall of leaves shaped into the form of an anvil.

Killian had no idea what had just happened, nor what he was to do with the banner. Everything was happening too fast to make anything out. He reached out and pulled the rope on the banner which rolled the banner itself up. With a heave, he pulled the banner out from where it was stuck in the group. It was fairly heavy, but he could still lift it.

Killian then scanned the cavern for any apparent exits. He suddenly spotted another archway on the other side of the cavern, its watery surface rippling. Killian took another deep breath, closed his eyes, and stepped into the archway.

*Blackstone: Famous engineer of traps.


The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 2 - Beyond Kara-Tur - Part 5 The Forger of Souls © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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