A Tunnels and Trolls® play-by-post adventure run by khara_khang
The other group members seem to grumble from time to time, but they keep moving forward.
Jay says while moving forward, "Bah."
Two cold undead minions lean against trees separated a dozen feet from each other. Both are all but invisible to those who pass by unaware.
Jay says while still moving forward, "Bah. And something smells around here."
This stalls the group for a while as they search in vain, but after realizing the futility they continue.
Jay says while vainly searching, "Bah. I'd really rather be moving forward."
Twenty minutes later, the jungle parts in front of them. They are only able to stare at the grand scene dimly lit by moonlight in the distance.
"And they just lost or forgot all about this place? Bah."
"I can't even see a window in the bloody thing, can you? Should I go up and look?"
"Over the walls? Bah. I mean, sure."
Yeah that's it... sneak in, glad hand a little with the walkin' stiffs and then Whammo! Dagger of Time all over their candy #$@%s!"
"Just what exactly can that dagger do?"
"But Sir Bones, if your skull holds such wondrous thoughts, might not the other walking dead yonder have enough in their noggins to see through the ploy? The dead have hands, and just as much, they might have secret handshakes."
"To say nothing of the prospect of yet another person disappearing."
"And I think, maybe, we should stay together. We've been unlucky in splitting up."
Now there's a thought.
"If, Jack, you're willing to try to infiltrate the minions' ranks, I say go for it."
"For the record, I'm against splitting up."
"But let's get a closer look before we make any decisions to split the party. We're already hemorrhaging delvers as it is."
"What say you: the lot of us scout out the entrances together..."
"...then Jack and Amroth pretend to be minions taking the rest of us prisoner and march us in right under their noses!"
"Bah. (Why do I keep grumbling?) While it has the advantage of keeping us together, if they had wanted us taken prisoner, they would've attempted it earlier. Why would they believe such a thing now?"
"Glad we're all on the same page...."
"I'm in a different book, and has Ebony expressed her view yet?"
"We gotta take this slow and methodical."
"Methodical, yes, but slow, not necessarily. We don't know how much time we have."
"The baddies have got our number so far and we could after all be walking right into a trap."
"Possibly, but doubtful. Considering how easily they've taken the Hobbit, and how we lost the Leprechaun and Taran---likely to the same foes---they've no doubt got us hopelessly outmatched already. A trap would be redundant. I doubt we'd be worth the effort of a trap."
"Jax, get that invisibility thing going again..."
"Jack, do things without eyes get fooled by invisibility?"
"...have a poke around first while me and these lovely ladies and germs work on our prisoners in chains routine."
"How are we planning on hiding the weapons, armor, deluxe staves, etc. of the prisoners? (Although the last time I was taken prisoner [cf. Dangerous Creations --ed.], none of it was taken, so maybe that's just standard procedure in these parts to keep equipment on prisoners.)"
"Quickly, you're with me. Martek, we'll meet you back here shortly after scouting the entrance."
"Have a wonderful time."
"...but I'm not inclined to lose track of another comrade thank you very much. If we get in trouble, we'll get out of it."
"Always a plus."
There's not a female in sight to appreciate his exquisitely sculpted Orc frame.
And by all accounts, he's the handsome brother.
He is also doing his best to keep his back turned to his companions. He doesn't want to see them, and he doesn't want to be seen in their common nakedness.
Shocked and slightly embarrassed at the sight of Taran without a towel, Olvarin regains his composure and comments:
"If you have need of our services, you will find me much more useful clothed and equipped. I am most interested in what use you desire to put us to. Won't you share it with us?"
That never works. All it gets you is a chomp in the back and thrown across the room [as happened to Jay when he addressed the bug god Urish in Dangerous Creations --ed.].
Well, no doubt you have the truth of it. And it's likely Olvarin will suffer for his troubles, especially since he forgot to say "please" during his performance. But the idea that he was going to spend turns and turns in bondage with his janglies hanging out was too much to bear. Go Jay! Go party! Rescue me!
Well, no doubt you have the truth of it.
My version of it, at least.
And it's likely Olvarin will suffer for his troubles...
That's almost as bad as the rest of us suffering for Jack de C's art.
...especially since he forgot to say "please" during his performance.
Incredible. Somehow you have managed to discern MMM's [Michael of the Midnight Magics from Goblins in the Mist and Oblique Streams --ed.] most powerful of magic words.
But the idea that he was going to spend turns and turns in bondage with his janglies hanging out was too much to bear.
We think it's just khara, but don't tell him.
He's the wrong guy to ask. He's got the best of intentions, he's more than willing to do it, but you'll probably be stuck on a "to rescue someday" list (right after the lions) that he's never managed to accomplish: an expedition that's always being put off by something or other.
You're counting on them?!?
Which can be unscrambled to spell "sue creme." Who's she?
And by all accounts, [Taran]'s the handsome brother.
Never mind that I bribed all the accounts to report it.
Shocked and slightly embarrassed at the sight of Taran without a towel, Olvarin regains his composure and comments....
Somebody's been watching VeggieTales again!
Where's my hairbrush anyway?
These three quips brought to you by Skin Eraser™. New face? Just Erase! (By the makers of the MX+ Coercer.) BZZRRRP!
I think you can go invisible, Quickly. Khara, isn't there some Fairy invisibility rule?
Yes there is. Fairies can turn invisible at will. Fairies can also see invisible creatures by nature of their innate magic.
The Mummy scans the face of the double doors as if it were a puzzle. The huge brass doors are shaped to resemble a male golden sphinx and from all outward appearances, they seem to open in the middle, from the only visible seam, but for all the Mummy's attempts, they remain shut.
The Hobbit lifts his head and looks at the Mummy. It seems distraught or disgusted---he can't tell which. "This, uh, robbery doesn't seem to be turning out like you planned... if you had a plan, which (don't get upset!) doesn't seem to be the case."
"We're doing fine." Its voice is thick and filled with words it is trying not to spill.
"This is fine? I'd hate to see when you do badly. You do know the moment you open those doors, you're dead, and you won't even see it coming," Shipy smiles slyly.
"I'm already dead," the Mummy King answers unemotionally.
"Fine! More dead than you already are now! No, no... no, why don't we put a sign out the front, huh? Huh? Yeah? 'Not Done Here.' You only have a limited window before they discover you're here."
Shipy rattles Taran's chains a little to get his attention and points at the floor. Clearly visible in the thick dust layering the floor are tracks of dozens of people who have passed through here very recently. A clear sign for such a forgotten place. Many tracks are bare-foot. In a moment of insane tactics, Taran believes that he might swing Shipy and Olvarin on their chains like a flail as a makeshift weapon. But that might require too much of a spin on the Elf. Taran grins a tusky expression which only serves to make Shipy nervous.
Finally, at an ancient word uttered by the Mummy King, the great double doors open slowly like a yawning mouth, metal grinding against the stone floor as each side disappears into the wall perfectly. Lightning leaps out from above the doorway to the Mummy, who seems immune to it, and who stands there accepting it without reaction. Its tattered cloak and thick bandages smoulder with wisps of hazy smoke.
"I am most interested in what use you desire to put us to. Won't you share it with us?"
It looks towards Olvarin, a slight Darth Vader type noise escaping from the shroud covering its face. "Now, I don't want you to be frightened. You're not going to die right this moment, but soon. You'll be reborn to a new master. I need you, Elf, for a sacrifice. I need the Orc because I need the heart from a Warrior, and I need the Hobbit to take something no man or Elf can touch. Each of you have your use. End of discussion. Now bring them!" With that he sauntered off.
It walks through the open doors and its minions pull Taran, Olvarin, and Shipy along with them. The great double doors close behind them once they are inside.
Taran scrunches his face up. "Don't worry Shippppy, [sic] we started this together. That's how we'll end it." Taran looks at Shipy, a flash of alarm crossing his face before he can school his expression back into one of studied indifference.
In a moment, Shipy can see that Taran is back in control of his thoughts, the familiar gaze staring down at him. "End it?" <Gulp> "Where's a GrappleJax when you need him? I have a list of reasons to live."
The Elf raises his sharp eyebrows high, trying to work with the chains and not trip and fall. "GrappleJax? What list?"
"I'll give you the Letterman list. Khazan, Dad, pizza, sex, cold grog, fast wagons, sex, Chereva, love, Ebony, sex, Shrsholn... eww yuck, scratch that last one...." The Hobbit's voice echoes in the long corridor, as do the chains, as his list continues on and on.
Jack, Ebony, Amroth, Megol, Jay and Martek make their way toward the Shu-Tzen Temple, still a good half mile away as Quickly and Jax scout ahead invisible. The dense jungle has given way to open grassland---a short wet grass about ankle high---but the darkness of the night seems to cloak everything as the heavy clouds above keep the twin moons of Kaball hidden from view. Even at night and from a good distance away, the Shu-Tzen Temple is impressive, reaching high into the clouds.
"Thanks a whole bunch for showing up and saving the day! Look Martek, I don't know exactly where you were comin' from or what particular ace you figure you have up your sleeve, but we are completely, 100% sussed out by these necrophiles, and we're gettin' picked off like fish in a barrel. I hope you've got a slightly better plan for this B&E."
"It's totally black out there, and we're looking for this big bad guppy. That much I understand. They say the mind bends and twists in order to deal with the horrors of life, Jack. Sometimes it bends and twists so much it snaps it two."
"So you're saying yours has snapped?" Jack attempts his best concerned look.
Martek rolls his eyes. "Umm, maybe... I'm just here to stop a damnable Mummy. I'm not here to recover anything, and there aren't any Arthurian overtones in my words; if the Lady of the Lake appears to me, it will be from a cesspool. No revenge, no talking, no running, and yes, I am the Sultan of Survival."
Her interest piques at this. "What's left other than fun and mayhem?" she asks, joining the conversation.
Martek purses his lips. "Be smarter. They always make it more complicated than what they need to. Use it against 'em. Screw 'em at their own game."
Ebony lets out a long breath. "That's good!"
Quickly and Jax approach the main gates as stealthily as possible, far ahead of the rest of the group that still slowly crosses the grasslands. Both are cloaked by invisibility and darkness. Thirty foot walls of sheer rock circle the edifice, and there is only one visible entrance into the compound. The area inside the temple walls is large enough to hold a city in itself.
In front of the main gates stands a lone Warrior. He is dressed in armor from head to toe, and carries a shield on one arm and a broad sword in the other. Horns from his full helm give him an ominous appearance. Burning braziers at either side of the gates light up the area. The gates behind the Warrior stand partly open, but are blocked by the Warrior, who holds his sword at the ready.
What do you do?
Quickly whispers to Jax, "How high do you figure the doors are? I'll bet you a genuine Rat-On-A-Stick™ that the braziers are part of some magical protection, though I wouldn't know a spell from my arse in the ground.... Maybe if I slipped in above sword reach, I could then find a way to distract the Warrior enough for you to conquer him easily? Or should I just nip up behind him, and try to ram my blade through a gap in his armor? Or should I just sneak in and try to find Shipy and Olvarin or Taran? Or maybe I should zip up just out of his sword range, pelt him with arrows and fly like hell while you go in and try to find Shipy and Olvarin or Taran? Or, you can ask ever-so-politely to see his beautiful Visage so that he'll take off his helmet and then I'll sap him with a sleepydart. Or maybe.... So many possibilities, so little time! Now that I think of it, there are so many ways to break in here it's not even funny. This'll be a snap!"
He resists the urge to snap his fingers---this is painful because he's proud of how well he does it and how appropriate it would be if only he didn't have to stay so darned quiet.
Jay grumbles and moves ahead of Megol. The last two folks at the end disappeared.... He'll also glance back every couple of steps, so that if they do disappear, we don't keep walking for a quarter of an hour before noticing.
...Quickly and Jax scout ahead invisible.
"Godspeed, or goddessspeed. I suppose you can take your choice who that refers to."
"I'm just here to stop a damnable Mummy."
"Of course, why he's here and why we're here are not necessarily the same thing."
Somebody's been watching VeggieTales again!
And the rest of us never stopped.
Where's my hairbrush anyway?
I think I saw your hairbrush back there! (Now, the question is, did you find the Easter egg Japanese version on the Countdown DVD?)
The huge brass doors are shaped to resemble a male golden sphinx....
I always wondered what happened to Prince Thalion.
"If you have need of our services, you will find me much more useful clothed and equipped. I am most interested in what use you desire to put us to. Won't you share it with us?"
That never works. All it gets you is a chomp in the back and thrown across the room.
"I need you, Elf, for a sacrifice.... Each of you have your use. End of discussion.
At least it wasn't that chomp in the back.
"They obviously know we're here, seeing as they've absconded with two of our number. They obviously are more stealthy than we, since we had no idea they had absconded with said number." She pauses for effect, and seeing that she has an audience, continues. "So, someone please explain why we're trying to sneak up to the temple?"
She has a mild amount of respect for the Orcs, seeing as they are the only "nice" Orcs she's ever met. She has a bit more respect for the Elf, because he is a healer. However, the others have done nothing whatever to earn her respect, or even shown much sign of sentience other than an occasional spoken thought that ended up sounding trite. She has a feeling that the Fairy abandoned the missing party member in a fight, that Shipy has planned this whole expedition with extreme haste (though he is a cute little Hobbit, as much as she hates to admit it) and that this Martek guy has his brains in his rope, because so far nothing he has said has seemed very intelligent.
What in the Goblin Wastes have I gotten myself into?
"...there are so many ways to break in here it's not even funny. This'll be a snap!"
Jax listens to the barrage of options spewing forth from the Fairy. "If only I shared your optimism, little one."
"Frak, I'm starting to sound like Jay. Let's get downwind of this dude. I need to think."
As Jax leads Quickly closer to the entrance of the massive temple and its imposing guardian, his thoughts are of his brother, of the adventures they've shared:
The smiling visage of Gristlegrim appeared in the air over their heads. "You are right, Orc," laughed the Dwarf-god. "Look, here is a vision of your brother at this very moment!"
A picture formed in the air above them. It showed a ragged figure with a cowl over its head, but a bit of a lizard's muzzle peeking out of it, opening a door and entering a hallway.
"That is the entrance to the citadel of Arahk Gnahk," crowed Jax. "My brother is safe!"
"Look again!" sneered the one-eyed Dwarf. There was no sound in the vision that played before Jax and Zig's eyes: Taran entered a room and greeted Blerrg but suddenly the two Orcs were blotted out by a massive falling body---a huge flaming Balrog---along with several huge pieces of the ceiling.
"Nooooooooo!" screamed Jax as he saw his brother crushed to a flaming death.
Jax finds himself staring into one of the burning braziers as his memory of Taran's fiery demise fades. Unbidden, something Shipy said back on the ship comes to mind:
"The bad news is that the guardians of the temple are the bad news."
His gaze shifts back to the armored Warrior. Hello, bad news.
Jax is operating on the reasonable likelihood that the Mummy and its minions have captured Taran, Shipy and Olvarin, that it holds them inside this structure, and that this is the ancient Elven temple toward which Shipy (and his father) were headed anyway. He looks at the Warrior in front of the temple gates and notes how different it looks compared to what he's seen of the Mummy and its minions. It is 8 feet tall; smothered not in burial wrappings, but in armor; wielding not claws, but a large weapon. He can't see it on HotVision™ due to light pollution from the twin braziers, but he has a hunch it isn't undead. Could it not be in league with the Mummy? Might it be one of the temple guardians Shipy feared? Might the Mummy have slipped past it somehow?
His thoughts return to past adventures with Taran:
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, T," Jax admonished his trouble-prone brother. "And for Arahk's sake, don't get yerself skewered!" Jax added, biting off the head of a delectable sun-dried lizard.
Just then, some kind of warbling bird in the distance made its call: "Bee dee bee dee bee dee!" Taran looked at his brother and considered his admonition. "Got it!" he said, then turned to Domina: "Let's go!"
As he ran blindly through the swamp with Shipy under his arm, Jax suddenly felt a pang of severe pain in his side. He nearly dropped Shipy in the muck, and slowed slightly, considering whether to turn back for his brother.
"What are you doing!" Shipy yelled from underneath his brawny arm. The worried look on Jax's face was answer enough. "Domina's got him! He'll be fine! Keep up the pace! Bust a move! Chop-chop, big guy!" Shipy shouted when Jax's stride allowed it.
Jax was well aware that the last time he felt such a pain, his brother had died from a Balrog-induced case of Completely Heinous Response Implicating Systematic Total Momentum Absorption Syndrome (a.k.a CHRISTMAS). He shuddered with the thought. "ClusterFrak™!" Jax grumbled under his breath and picked up his pace.
When the party (sans Taran and Domina) reached solid ground, he dropped Shipy to the ground and reluctantly followed Martek up the temple steps, with a pointless glance skyward over his shoulder. "By Grabthar's Hammer," he thought, resigned for the worst, "You will be avenged!"
Quickly buzzes Jax's head and brings him out of the lure of dark memories. But lingering snippets of past conversations still bubble up to his consciousness:
"I have heard that tragedy often heralds flight.... [P]ieces of different kindling often build the strongest fire.... I am reminded at this point of a word that actually brought us here: 'hope.'"
That last word echoes throughout the small confines of Jax's (mostly empty) skull, like the ricocheting twang of Taran's crossbow fired in the sewers below Khazan. The word strikes a resonant chord in Jax's psyche on its way to embedding itself in his foremost thoughts, and it bolsters his courage. He has a third of a mind to go back with Quickly to the rest of the group like he told them he would. Unfortunately, that is the Haroouugh third: wise, logical, conservative and ancient beyond years, and the third which Jax takes stubborn Orcish pride in overruling.
"Quickly," he whispers, "the only way we're getting in is through him, and somehow, I doubt he'll be fooled by subterfuge. My gut says he's not with the Mummy. I'm going to try reasoning with him first."
Not waiting for Quickly to convince him otherwise, Jax strides into the light of the braziers near the entrance, 30 or so feet from the Warrior, and doffs the hood of his cloak. He stands there, his empty hands at his sides and addresses the guardian Warrior in Elvish (translated here in Common).
"Greetings, Guardian of the Temple of Shu-Tzen. My name is Jax Dracon, son of Oother Pe'ng Dracon, son of Uklug, son of Nishgrahk, son of Ratajanx, who slew Ancalagon the Black Wyrm. I have come here to rescue my brother Taran and two other members of my party, who have been taken against their will, and whom I fear are in mortal danger beyond the doors you guard. I speak thus to you, one Warrior to another, in the hope that you will grant us passage."
"So, someone please explain why we're trying to sneak up to the temple?"
"We aren't---at least I hope not. I agree; they do know we're here, and they are stealthier than we are. That doesn't mean they can see the invisible. And the two invisible individuals are scouting ahead, hopefully to give the rest of us more information than we have now---at least that was my understanding. While they seem to know us all too well, we know precious little about them, and any shred of knowledge we gain will be helpful---even more so if they do not know we possess it.
"What else would you have us do? We may be doomed to go down in crushing failure, but we cannot abandon our comrades. Besides the obvious moral and ethical reasons, Shipppy [sic] has the information on our greater goal: stopping the his father from freeing the Balrog." <sigh>
"So if we must go to the temple, we might as well go as quietly as possible. Perhaps they are continuously tracking us, but there's no reason we should make that task any easier for them than it already is."
Jay shrugs. "In fact, I might be wrong when I said I was against splitting up. It's painfully clear they can track us as a unit, but perhaps they cannot handle two groups. We don't know. I'm waiting to hear what Jax and the Fairy discover. Because with no information to make a plan; a SWAG is our best hope. I do not know your background, nor those of several others here, but I'm willing to trust Jax's instincts until we do know more. I have little to say on the subject until then. However, if you or one of the other mages have some type of spell that would help make things more clear, protect us from being watched, allow faster egress, entry, or travel, etc., etc., etc., I'm all for it."
However, the others have done nothing whatever to earn her respect, or even shown much sign of sentience other than an occasional spoken thought that ended up sounding trite.
I blame khara for putting words in our mouths. Bah.
...Shipy has planned this whole expedition with extreme haste....
What would you expect of any expedition that starts out with a general bar announcement?
"Frak, I'm starting to sound like Jay."
As he stumbles along at the rear of the chain gang, Olvarin tries really hard to keep up with Shippy's [sic] verbal list of sex and miscellanea. But eventually he stops hearing the Hobbit and begins to brood. Chereva, a reason for living: among the Hobbit's list entries, this one should have provoked a like-minded sentiment. But the truth is that Olvarin is having trouble remembering what she looks like now, except in terms of broad generalities. He'd only seen her for fifteen minutes, after all. Shorn of inspiration, the Elf sighs in despair.
It is unlikely that he will make a very good sacrifice. At Rhistiana's Temple, where he has trained, it is said that for maximum yield, a sacrifice must be something truly owned, or willing. Otherwise human sacrifices are mere murder, with the infernal forces lapping up only the slightest part of the explosively dissapating life force. Olvarin feels a little better thinking on this. The Mummy fiend's ritual might fail even though it goes through all the right movements.
The Elf longs for his staff, which was once owned by the goddess. Well, When the time comes, I can always bite my tongue off and drown in my own blood before they consecrate and sacrifice me. But even amidst such dire and desperate thoughts, the Elf draws a peculiar kind of solace from Shippy's [sic] defiant tauntings, and Taran's stoic endurance. Is it possible that by some slim chance they will escape alive?
Quickly gapes in horror as Jax becomes visible, then tries to make the best of a bad deal. Flying as gently and quietly as he can, Quickly moves up along Jax's right on the off chance that he'll draw the Warrior in. Should the guardian Warrior attack, Quickly should be able to get in a good stab from behind, preferably in one of the soft bits behind the knee.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:29 2006
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