Friday, September 28, 2012

The Depths of Despair Part 6: Run for the Light

Tendrils of black energy arced across the cave and singed the walls.The air seemed to constrict then expand rapidly in a pressure wave that shook the ceiling and sent Fland flying. He landed several feet away with his ears ringing and smoke wafting off of singed cloths and hair.

Fland tried to survey the scene as his vision came into focus. First, he looked to the hobgoblin. The hobgoblin was lying on the floor, not moving at all. Its left arm now ended in a singed stump. Fland quickly looked down to make sure his hands were still there. They were, though they bore burn marks. His light maces were mostly intact, though slightly melted. A glance to the side showed that the goblin that had been being lowered into the pit was most likely dead from the blast.

Fland looked about until he saw what had happened to Elarr and the bugbear. The bugbear had been knocked to his knees by the blast, but was quickly recovering, swinging his ax about wildly. Elarr was the least stunned. His magical shield had apparently absorbed much of the blast. Unfortunately, it seemed to have finally collapsed from doing so.

Fland hurried to regain his feet, moving unsteadily. As he stood, he drew the dagger from his boot sheath. Forcing his hand and mind to steady for a moment, he threw the dagger at the bugbear. The dagger was well balanced and made one full rotation as it sliced through the air. The point bit deep into the bugbear's meaty forearm, causing him to drop the ax.

Elarr was not of a martial mind, but was not unfamiliar with how to defend himself in close combat. He saw the opportunity to strike and took it. Gripping his crystalline walking stick in both hands, he swung it hard. The sphere at the top smashed into the bugbear’s jaw with a spark of arcane energy. The crack of bone and magic sang out as the monstrous jaw was shattered. Elarr used the staff to help himself to his feet and brushed some disheveled hair out of his face as he stepped over the felled bugbear.

We need to leave fast,” Fland said as he retrieved his dagger, “I’m betting that even with that sound ward thing, someone heard that.”

Elarr was stooped down and quickly gathering a few pieces of the shattered orb. “I really wish you had not done that, any of it,” he said with deep frustration in his voice.

Censure me later, we need to get out of this place now,” Fland responded with a rare amount of urgency. The goblin hole had proved to be fairly abusive to his nerves, far more than he had expected. He wanted to back in the fresh air and away from the malignant presence that still haunted the cave.

The pair raced back through the caves, all pretenses of stealth cast aside. Dashing past the mutating goblins, they saw the two bugbear guards from before approaching. Fland’s guess had been right, and the guards had come to investigate. The bugbears drew their crude swords and snarled as they opened their unsettling jaws then charged.

Fland struck first with a javelin. The tip pierced on through the belly. It slowed, but did not stop. He wanted the fight over fast, and preferably at a distance. Beyond their monstrous strength, something about the unnatural creatures shook him once they were close. He had felt it when he passed them earlier and during the fight with the others. It is hard to fight when your hand shakes your stomach is turning about. Better to attack these brutes from a distance as much as possible.

Elarr made a quick gesture while incanting a few arcane syllables. He pointed the tip of his staff towards the lead bugbear and a zigzagging line of silver lightning struck it full in the chest a few feet from striking distance. The monster was stunned by the sudden crater burned into his hairy chest. Fland capitalized on this and sprung forward to strike it twice across the brow.


As the lead bugbear dropped, Fland brought one mace up to block a clumsy blow from the one he had impaled. This close in, he could feel the unnerving aura that surrounded the creature, that made it more horrifying. To Fland's mind, that was just unnecessary. A quick exchange of blows sent the creature to the ground, though it had left a nasty cut to Fland's arm.

Damn these things are strong and they don't know when to bloody die!” Fland cursed as they set to running back down the twisting tunnel.

They are bred to be killers,” Elarr panted out as they ran. He was not as athletic as his companion and had to work to keep up.

They quickly passed by the fork in the tunnel. As they ran, behind them they could hear the sound of goblin feet slapping at the floor and goblin voices shouting. The pair ran faster, knowing that if they did not make it out of the hole quick, they would be outnumbered.

I think the wasps just realized that we've been kicking their nest!” Fland said with some of his cocky humor returning. They were only a short distance from the cave entrance and he could already smell the fresh air. He was ready to be away from the corruption of the pit and back in his element.

The goblin horde was closing fast. Despite short legs, the goblins were fast. As well, they were rested unlike the duo who had been through several grueling fights in a short time. Still, the head start was enough and Fland was at the crude ladder out of the pit after another minute. He was about to head straight up when he noticed that Elarr was not following. He turned and looked at his partner who was rapidly scrawling runes on the floor.

I don't think we have time for whatever you are doing,” Fland said as he hopped back down. Elarr continued to to draw the runes and ignored Fland. The elf rapidly worked his way along the floor too the wall and started up it. He muttered an incantation as he worked.

The first goblins rounded the corner as Elarr marked the ceiling. Screaming an obscene battlecry, one goblin hurled a spear at the elf. Fland leapt forward and knocked the spear aside before it could impale his partner.

Definitely out of time,” Fland said as he grabbed the collar of Elarr's robe and pulled him towards the ladder. The circle of runes was nearly complete and the elf mage hastily inscribed the last bit with the tip of his staff and shouted a single arcane syllable as he was tugged away and forced up the ladder.

Fland hurried up the ladder, half pushing Elarr as he went. Glancing back he watched as the lead goblin sharged with his stone tipped spear. As the goblin reach the line of runes he fell backwards as though he had hit a wall. He was then trampled by the next few goblins racing behind him, who were also knocked back by the invisible barrier.

Finally, out of the hole, Fland took in a deep breath of fresh air and tilted his face up into the sunshine. This lasted only a moment before they were both dashing for the treeline. Their horses were tethered a short distance back.

The barrier should hold them for a short time. If I had time to finish it properly it might have held them for a day,” Elarr lamented.

No help for it. Time was not on our side.”

We would have had more time if you had not been so reckless.”

How was I suppose to know about the damn trap?!” Fland shot back, “Besides, it all worked out. I destroy the orb that hobgoblin witch or whatever in the Nine Hells that thing was.”

I didn't want you to destroy it you fool!” Elarr shouted. The elf turned and saw the blank stare on the human's face. He gave a pained sigh and elaborated, “That was no goblin relic. Where did it come from? How did a hobgoblin get it? Who gave it to him? Worst of all, I fear you may have released...something.”

What?! You mean like a demon? I did not see a demon after I smashed that thing,” Fland replied slightly chastised.

No,” Elarr said as he climbed on his horse, “You noticed how corrupted it was down there,” he stated, “It was from the orb. That was just what was leaking out of it. I think that the orb was containing something, a malignant power, or perhaps a life force. When you smashed it, you let it out.”

That sounds bad.”

Indeed, but it depends on what was released,” Elarr said as they rode. His voice sunk into a lecturing tone that told Fland that the mage was now musing on the academic merits of what they had learned, not the practical effects. “If it is just energy, then it will just dissipate eventually. It will slow the healing of the land, but the scar the goblins put there will take time to heal even if we had procured the orb intact.

A life force, however, will need something to contain it. It could search out a new vessel. More likely it will seek to return to its source. The implications of which are hard to deduce at this point. I hope the few fragments I grabbed will provide some insight.”

Fland took this in and thought for a few minutes. Finally, he smiled and shrugged. “Nothing to do about it except wait and see. That hobgoblin is dead and I'm betting that means no more of those bugbears for the time being,” A nod from Elarr confirmed this. “We can get the militia and run down the rest of those cave rats without too much trouble. That is what we were suppose to do. Besides, I frankly would not want to travel with you if you were carrying that creepy orb around.”

Even more reason for me to regret its destruction,” Elarr said with a tired voice. Fland only laughed.

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