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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Two (Beyond Kara-Tur - Part Four: Into The Unknown)

Author: 
Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
220

The bright moon overhead shone down on the group as they set up camp within the ruins of Calledor Nujaal. The firelight from the campfire dimly lit their surroundings. They had carefully picked their way into the ruins, finally setting up camp in what might have once been a marketplace. Now it was entirely bare, the remnants of a fountain lying in the center of it all.

Killian glanced about nervously. Ever since they had first entered the ruins, Killian had had an itch along his spine, a feeling of dread. Apparently Arden and Seraphina felt it as well, for Sera had taken his hand as if it would assure herself of his presence, while Arden kept his bow close ad hand.

Arden gripped his bow tightly from where he sat at the edge of the fire. Seraphina, wrapped in a blanket Thunder had given her from one of his saddlebags, had snuggled against Killian's side, her eyes occasionally drifting shut from sleep before snapping them open again.

Thunder lay on a sleeping pallet on the other side of the fire, his plate armor laying at his side as well as his sword. Killian had been surprised how small Thunder looked without his armor. Sure, he was muscular and larger than Killian, but he didn't look as large and menacing without his armor to add to his bulk.

As if feeling Killian watching him, one of Thunder's eyes opened and looked directly at him. After a short moment, he opened his other eye and sat up on his elbows.

"What troubles you?" he directed his question at the three of them.

Seraphina had dozen off, so Killian and Arden exchanged glances as if deciding who would say they were afraid.

"It's this place," Arden said, shivering as he looked around. "Something feels wrong about it."

"That stands to reason," Thunder shrugged. "Drow once walked this city, so some of their evil may still linger in the air. Ethan is standing guard. If anything happens, he will alert us. It would be wise though to sleep."

"But-" Arden began to protest.

"Sleep," Thunder said firmly before laying down again.

Arden glanced at Killian before lying back on his sleeping pallet. Killian gently laid Seraphina back on his pallet they had been sitting on and got into her pallet a few feet away. Sleep did not come easy. Images kept flashing across his mind, images of men in black cloaks with strange humanoid creatures with glinting eyes and sharp fangs.

Rolling over, Killian noticed Faelar at the edge of the campsite. He was sitting on the ground, legs crossed and wrists resting on his knees, his head lowered. What he could be doing, Killian had no idea. Killian had been told that elves don't sleep, but instead meditate for a few hours to regain their energy, but Killian had never meditate before, being the fact that he was raised in a community of humans.

Several hours passed before Killian fell asleep.

*******

Voices whispering suddenly awoke Killian. There were three voices; Killian recognized them to be Thunder's, Faelar's, and Ethan's. Without looking like he was awake, he left his body motionless and looked up at the sky while trying to listen in on their conversation. The moon was still bright overhead, so he hadn't been sleeping long.

"... don't care what the High Priests said," Thunder was saying. "If we take them to the High Priests, we may lose valuable time. We must do it while we are here."

"Don't do this Thunder," Faelar said. "Don't defy the High Priests' will. You are too honored a paladin to start disobeying the High Priests orders. And besides, the boy is not ready. He'd most likely get killed, maybe even get us all killed as well."

"Time is running out," Thunder hissed. "I am willing to take that risk. Sher has broken free of the Celestials. The High Ice has cracked and her demons are now free. Who knows what kind of a grasp Sher will have on Faerun by the time we reach the High Priests? He must be marked before he can be trained. If we take him to the High Priests, too much time will be lost, and even if I teach him to use a sword properly by then it will do him little good. He must be marked."

"Do you realize how dangerous that place is?" We'd be lucky to make it past the entry room alive. That place is armed to the teeth with traps. Should I disable one trap, it may set off another. Even I won't be able to jam or disable them all," Ethan protested.

"We will make do with what we have," Thunder said firmly. "Time is short. We do it tomorrow. Ethan, when you go scouting ahead and come back to report, tell us you've seen gnolls wandering about in large groups. It will give us good enough excuse to hide there."

Killian then heard Faelar say in an even more hushed tone that he could barely hear, "The boy is awake."

Killian could feel the paladin's eyes on him and desperately tried to look like he was sleeping. After that, the paladin, elf, and halfling never said another word. Killian then fell asleep again, dimly wondering how Faelar had known he was awake.

*******

Killian was torn away from his dreams by an all not-too-gentle foot nudging him in the side. Opening his eyes, he looked up at the comical-faced halfling. Once the halfling knew he was awake, Ethan strode off without a word. Thunder was standing to the side of the campsite, once again in his plate armor, speaking to Faelar in what Killian thought to be another language. When the two noticed Killian watching, they spoke even more quietly, as if afraid he would overhear them. When the two were done talking, they both headed back into camp.

"Pack up everybody," Thunder said. "We're heading out."

Everyone quietly packed up. Once everything was back into the saddlebags and the horses were saddled up, everybody mounted their horses and began their trek out of the ruinous city.

As they silently traveled, Killian knew they were getting closer to whatever Thunder had cooked up when Ethan rode ahead to "scout the area ahead." Killian was not sure he could trust them, but if he ran, their horses were much stronger and faster than his, so they could most likely easily overcome him. Instead, he silently followed Thunder, waiting for whatever would happen next. As time passed, Killian was jerked from his thoughts at the sound of a horse galloping towards them. Killian calmed his speeding heart when Ethan appeared from around the remnants of a building.

"What news?" Thunder asked when Ethan pulled up alongside of him.

"Gnolls," Ethan said. "Several dozen at least. Moving south. It we keep moving at this pace, we'll run right into them. I also spotted a group headed this way before I hurried back."

"We'll need a place to hide until they pass," Thunder looked about, pursing his lips before pointing to a columned building, half of it still standing. Thunder lead them in through the enormous entrance into half of what might have once been a meeting hall. Rotting benches and tables lay everywhere, some in pieces, some whole. Rays of sunlight shone down through the holes in the ceiling, dimly lighting the room.

Thunder hopped off his horse and lead it up to a wall. Killian did not notice what he was doing he was so busy looking about trying to spot the invisible eyes he always felt watching him from the shadows around them. The sound of grinding stone caught his attention. Killian turned to see Thunder standing in front of a doorway now where there had just been wall. Killian slowly followed Faelar and Ethan as they lead their horses into the dark room beyond the doorway. Once everyone was in the room, Thunder came in, the stone door closing behind him, blocking out all light.

Killian could hear Faelar clicking two things together in the dark before a torch lit up. Faelar put away his flint and steel as Ethan took the torch and held it close to the wall at the left side of the closed chambers.

Killian dimly wondered what they were to do in here when Ethan pushed another stone in the wall. Another stone doorway opened up, revealing a set of stairs winding downward.

"What's that lead to? Why are we even here?" Arden spoke up.

"We are here to avoid being attacked by gnolls," Ethan said. "And this leads to a very dangerous place." With that last, Ethan then pulled out a small vial of black colored grease and applied it to his eyes before disappearing down the winding stairs.

"You two will stay here," Thunder instructed Arden and Seraphina. "Faelar, stay with the young ones to ensure their safety."

"Very well," Faelar did not sound thrilled.

"Killian," Thunder looked at him. "You are coming with us."

Knowing it would be useless to argue with him since Thunder knew Killian had listened in on his conversation, Killian licked his dry lips and pulled out his bow from one of his saddlebags. Thunder nodded approvingly that he had not gotten any backtalk and began down the stairs. Killian shot one glance at Arden and Seraphina before moving to follow him. Seraphina bit back what she was going to say to him and Arden just looked plain scared.

Killian loosened his twin swords in their scabbard. Nocking an arrow in his bow, Killian followed Thunder down the winding stairs. The stairs seemed to keep going down as the time passed. They were easily several hundred feet below ground by now. Killian suddenly let out a panicked yelped when a loud clank echoed from below. As soon as he heard this, the stairs they were on suddenly laid flat, forming a kind of slide, slanted so they would keep going downward. Thunder let out a startled grunt before he fell flat on his back and began sliding down the stairs. Killian's feet slipped out from under him, sending him crashing to the ground before beginning to slide. Lashing about wildly, his fingers grasped at the crevices between the stones along the wall, but to no avail.

The ending of the staircase came into view... as well as the ending of the floor. The stairs stopped abruptly at the edge of a pit which Killian had no idea as to its depth. Beyond the pit was a room with a large set of double doors with a lone torch on either sides of it. The room beyond the pit was not what occupied Killian's attention. The pit ahead had his full attention. Ethan could be seen along the wall in the pit at the other end, hanging from one hand as he tried to get a sufficient hand-hold with his other hand. Thunder was nowhere to be seen.

The ground quickly disappeared from under Killian as he became air-born. As soon as he had become so, something latched itself to one of his wrists. His flight towards the bottom of the pit halted suddenly. Looking up, Killian gasped. Thunder had a hold of Killian with one hand while hanging onto his sword with the other which seemed wedged firmly between the stonework along the pit wall.

Looking down, Killian gasped as he watched the torch Thunder had been using fall. The tunnel seemed to stretch on forever when Killian spotted the reflection of water before the torch winked out.

"Ethan," Thunder's voice took on a humorous tone despite the current situation. "I thought we'd agreed that you were to scout ahead to disable the traps, not set them off."

"It's not my bloody fault!" Ethan sounded mad. "This night sight grease doesn't tolerate light! I find it very difficult to disable a trap when I'm nearly blind from the light because of those two flaming torches over there!"

Ethan finally reached the top of the pit and climbed over the edge before disappearing into the next room. After a moment, Ethan appeared again, coils of rope wrapped around his arm.

"Killian, catch," Ethan tossed the rope down to him.

Killian grabbed at the rope as it flew down to him, snagging it around his free hand.

"Climb the rope," Thunder's voice seemed a little strained now.

Killian let go of Thunder, gripping the rope with both hands. He then swung from the wall he and Thunder had been on before slamming into the opposite wall with a grunt. Slowly, he climbed up to the edge of the pit where Ethan helped him up.

"Don't move from that spot," Ethan instructed as he pulled the rope back up. "The floor here is rigged with at least a dozen pressure plates from what noticed."

Killian looked into the room from his vantage point. Ethan had tied the other end of the rope to one of the knockers on the double doors. Ethan then tossed the rope to Thunder who easily caught it. Bracing his feet against the wall, he yanked his blade free of the wall, spinning around to the opposite side. Sheathing his sword, he quickly climbed the remainder of the way up. Ethan then pulled out a small bit of chalk. Stepping from one stone block on the ground to another, he made a small mark on each block all the way to the doors. Ethan then made a show of studying the doors, carefully checking the door handles, hinges, and all other parts of the door he could reach. Finally, he nodded in satisfaction before opening the door a crack and disappearing through it before closing the door behind him.

"We give him to the count of one hundred before following," Thunder murmured before peering back down the pit. Killian slowly began counting to one hundred. When he reached one hundred, he looked expectantly at Thunder. Thunder had apparently not reached one hundred, for he shook his head slightly at Killian. A few more moments passed before Thunder finally nodded.

Thunder went first, easily stepping from stone to stone to the door. Before opening the door, he grabbed a torch from the side of the door. Killian stepped on each stone, although he nearly lost balance several times trying to step as easily as Thunder did. Thunder cautiously opened the door and edged his way through it. Killian, remembering he'd lost his bow in the pit, pulled out one of the twin blades and hefted it awkwardly. Taking a deep breath, Killian followed Thunder into the unknown.

 

The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 2 - Beyond Kara-Tur - Part 4 Into The Unknown © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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