"Where are you going?" inquired Valerius.
"I can't say. I'm not even sure. But I have to take a small force ahead. It's a secret Zhentarim mission."
"Well, be safe."
Virtue thought about that for a moment, "Sure. Why not?"
OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 30
"THE CHASM BRIDGE"
Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
and are roaming free in the
subterranean land known as the Underdark.
Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
into the depths of the Earth.
They are on the way to Gravenhollow,
the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
where it is said all secrets are known.
After rescuing Amarith Coppervein
from a demonic zoo
the party continues on their journey
only to encounter strange shadow creatures...
from a demonic zoo
the party continues on their journey
only to encounter strange shadow creatures...
- Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
- Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
- Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
- Willow - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux.
- Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
- The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
- Ront - (PC) orc barbarian of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
- Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.
ADVENTURERS OF THE ORDER OF THE GAUNTLET
Under the command of Ser Valerius
- Thora Nabal - (NPC) human warrior
- Sylrien Havennor - (NPC) human warrior
- Olaf Renghyi - (NPC) human warrior
- Elias Drako - (NPC) human warrior
- Tamryn Tharke - (NPC) human warrior
SCOUTS OF THE EMERALD ENCLAVE
Under the command of Ront
- Brim Coppervein - (NPC) dwarven mounted scout (missing)
- Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC) dwarven mounted scout
- Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC) dwarven mounted scout
GUARDS AND AGENTS OF THE LORDS' ALLIANCE
Under the command of Pain
- Anzar the Brazen - (NPC) dwarven warrior
- Feral Killmander - (NPC) human spy
- Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC) dwarven warrior (deceased)
- Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC) dwarven warrior (deceased)
- Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC) dwarven warrior (deceased)
- Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC) dwarven warrior (deceased)
- Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC) human spy (missing)
- Hilvius Haever - (NPC) human spy (missing)
THE BLACK CLOAKS OF THE ZHENTARIM
Under the command of Virtue
- Nero Kelvane - (NPC) human thug
- Lenora Hasku - (NPC) human thug
- Gorath Torn - (NPC) human thug
- Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC) human thug (missing)
- Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC) human thug (deceased)
- Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC) human thug (deceased)
- Primwin Halk - (NPC) human thug (deceased)
- Iandro Alathar - (NPC) human thug (deceased)
- Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.
- Amarith Coppervein - (NPC) dwarven veteran, formerly owner and operator of a menagerie of demon-possessed creatures.
- Pok-Pok - (NPC) winged kobold, Amarith's assistant.
- Sparky - (NPC) fire-beetle, Amarith's trained pet.
SHADOW DEMONS AND LAVA SWELLS
The expedition was navigating a long smooth tunnel of black rock when suddenly a dark ethereal shape flashed from the floor to the ceiling againd of them, passing through solid stone! Another shape darted amidst the expedition. Ront called for a halt. They were not alone.
Ront ran forward of the main group and held aloft his sun-sphere. It hovered and glowed with the light of day. The shadowy form emerged from the stone and recoiled in horror. Its shadowy ethereal form resolved into an oily humanoid torso with dark leathery wings and a horned head. Its clawed hands shielded itself from the rays of the orb. It hissed and clawed at Ront. Ront slashed at the creature with his sword.
Another shadowy creature emerged from the rock towards the center of the expedition, attacking Willow. Pain and Feryl rushed to her aid.
After a short battle, the shadow demon attacking Ront was destroyed while the one attacking Willow was forced to flee into the stone of the passage wall. It never returned.
The expedition continued their endless journey through the bowells of the earth. They traveled until they were tired. They rested, they slept, then they traveled some more.
Suddenly the passage ceiling collapse and lava began dropping from above, filling the tunnel. The party hurried past but lost Griswalla Stonehammer.
THE OGRE CHECKPOINT
The expedition pushed forward. Eventually, the lone remaining scout, Thargus Forkbeard, returned to report a checkpoint ahead manned by what appeared to be ogres.
The expedition approached openly with the leaders at the front. The passage widened into a chamber with one side that opened onto a rift and a deep chasm. The sound of wind and rushing water could be heard echoing from the chasm. The chamber had a large stone table and chairs as well as a cauldron of mulled wine warming over magically heated rocks.
Seated at the table was a drow female with her two hobgoblin guards standing behind her. She was negotiating with the largest of the ogres. When the party arrived, the large ogre held up his hand as if to pause her in mid-sentence.
The ogre got up and approached the party. He spoke eloquently and politely... for an ogre.
"Hello. I am Grakk. We guard the bridge over the chasm. If you wish to cross the bridge, you must pay the toll."
"How much is the toll?" asked Pain.
The ogre looked over the expedition piled up behind Pain, "Umm.. Two hunnert gold coins."
"Oh, well, okay."
"What? No way!" Pain leaned in close with a conspiratorial manner, "Maybe we can come to some other arrangement? How about we cross for free?"
"Uh, no. The boss wouldn't like that. Nobody crosses his bridge without paying the toll."
"Isn't there some other way?"
"Well.. okay.. look. I like you. But there is another way across the chasm. There's a rope bridge down dat way. Don't tell the boss."
Thargus cleared his troat, "Uh, rope bridge? Sir, I don't think my riding lizard will be able to cross that."
Valerius, Pain, Willow, and Ront conferred. It was true. On top of that, Willow's shield guardian was too large to cross any rope bridge. It was agreed that they would pay the toll for Thargus and the shield guardian but everyone else would cross the rope bridge.
"Hey, what about your lion mount?" someone asked Valerius.
"No problem. When we get there, I can un-summon him then re-summon him on the other side."
"Okay, show us the rope bridge."
"Hey! Wait!" interjected the drow. "How come they don't have to pay? Mistle won't like this!"
"You shaddup!" said Grakk, "I already told you. Mistle the Great ain't gonna sell his bridge to you!"
"We'll see about that!" she said as she returned to her seat.
Grakk pointed to one of the ogres, "Show dem de way to the rope bridge."
The ogre begain snickering, "S-sure boss!"
Grakk glared at him.
THE ROPE BRIDGE
The ogre guide led them through a side tunnel. The tunnel emerged onto a ledge on the side of the chasm, became a tunnel again, and finally emerged onto another ledge that led to a rope bridge connecting both sides of the rift. Wind blew constantly and water could be heard rushing in the darkness far below.
The rope bridge was little more than three stout lengths of rope connecting both ends. One cross the chasm by walking the bottom rope while holding onto the other two ropes. The entire affair appeared treacherous and fraught with peril.
The ogre guide stopped and pointed to the bridge. He very loudly declared, "Dat ober dere is rope bridge. You should probubly cross one at time!" The ogre squeezed past everyone as he retreated the way he came.
The party cautiously moved forward along the ledge to the rope bridge. Before they could make it, several winged humanoids emerged from a cave - gargoyles! One appeared to be larger than the others. It flew past inspecting the expedition. The large gargoyle indicated two victims amongst the expedition and four of the smaller gargoyles swooped in to attack.
Willow telepathically reached out to her shield guardian, ordering it to return to her.
Ront was grabbed by one gargoyle and was pulled off the ledge into the air. Pok-Pok the winged kobold flew after Ront. Ront managed to kill the gargoyle and began to plummet but was captured by Pok-Pok and carried back to the ledge.
Meanwhile, the warriors of the Gauntlet opened fire with crossbows before engaging the gargoyles with spears.
Soon all four gargoyles were either killed or repulsed. With the fighting over, the ogre guide poked his head out of the tunnel and inquired, "Have you caught more slaves yet?" The ogre noticed that the battle had gone poorly for the gargoyles and uttered "Oh shit!" before he quickly turned to run.
Valerius, Pain, and Ront quickly caught up to the ogre and cut the brute down before he could warn the others.
The party, concerned about gargoyle attack while crossing the rope bridge, turned back to attack the ogres at the checkpoint.
BATTLE AT THE CHECKPOINT
The expedition returned to the checkpoint to confront the ogres. They were met by two of the ogre guards who blocked the entrance into the cavern. Valerius, Ront, and Pain engaged the ogres one at a time. Willow provided magical support while Pok-Pok flew overhead dropping stones.
DM NOTE- Pok-Pok is a rock-dropping bad-ass!
Every rock dropped by Pok-Pok was a critical hit!
On the other side of the cavern, Willow's shield guardian was engaged with another ogre as it tried to return to her side.
Grakk went into a side room. He returned and grabbed the cauldron of mulled wine. As he carried the cauldron towards the melee, there came the blaring of a warning horn from the side room. Grakk strode forth and threw the cauldron and the wine onto the front ranks of the expedition. He then drew forth a large mace and swung wildly.
Valerius, Ront, and Pain quickly dispatched Grakk and the other two ogres. Before they coudl assist the shield guardian, the drow ordered her hobgoblins to attack the ogre.
The drow approached Valerius and pain, and in her exotic accent inquired, "Need some help?"
TO BE CONTINUED...