“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
- Adon Cordell, 17th level Human Celric Warpriest of Tempus
- Grogon, 17th level Half-Orc Fighter Battlemaster
- Sunz Tzu, 17th level Human Monk
Adon Cordell watched in wonder as the bars of his prison cell fell away. He heard the explosions from outside, and felt the vibrations rocking the entire structure of the prison. Black smoke billowed up from somewhere below. He could only assume that one of the lower levels was on fire. He staggered out of the cell and glanced around him. Seeing nobody in the hallway, he ran as quickly as he could towards the stairway at the far end. He was keenly aware that a Drow assassin had already made her way through the cells in this hallway, killing each of the prisoners. It was only by divine intervention that she failed to notice him.
He turned a corner to see a Drow warrior blocking his path. The dark-skinned elf was crouched and ready for combat. It was clear that his enermy had seen or heard him coming. The warrior stepped forward, his short sword and dagger a blur in front of him as he worked them through a series of practiced manuevers. Adon knew he would be dead in seconds.
Adon fell back a step, raising his arm that was marked with the holy symbol of Tempus. But before the cleric could even call out to his warrior god, the wall behind the Drow suddenly exploded. Broken timber and cinder blocks flew this way and that, causing Adon to fall backwards on the cold floor of the hallway. When he looked up, the young man saw that his adversary was dead, buried under stone blocks and pierced through the chest with a shattered beam. The end of the hallway was now a shattered hole leading out into the interior of what used to be the stairwell.
“Praise, Tempus.” he sighed as he picked up the sword and dagger. Glancing forward, he crouched as he saw a gigantic green scaly leg latch on to the crumbling ledge at the end of the hallway. The priest stumbled back again, his stomach clenching up and fear nearly paralyzing him. “Dragon?!” It was almost unbelievable that a green dragon had smashed its way through the four levels of the tower, and was now apparently clinging to the ruined walls. Almost as impossible as the sight of Sun Tzu, the monk, suddenly appearing on the dragon’s flank and running quickly along its back out of Adon’s line of sight. But not as surprising as watching the dragon lashing its tail back and forward in the air with Maug the Destroyer, a half-orc barbarian, hanging on for dear life.
Adon gathered his wits about him again, and stood up. Sliding the dagger into the rags that served as his pants, he picked up a fist sized rock and threw it at the dragon’s flank. The rock bounced off without effect, but at that moment the half-orc barbarian lost his grip on the dragon’s tail. Adon watched as the barbarian sailed through the air, desperately grasping for the ledge, or a beam, or anything that might prevent his fall. He stepped forward towards the ledge, only inches from the dragon’s sharp talons, and looked down to see that the barbarian had managed toi catch himself on the shattered ledge of th e floor below. He heard the angry half-orc shout, “I am Maug the Destroyer!”
Adon attempted to invoke the magic of his god, Tempus. But as he did, he could feel that something — or someone — prevented him from doing so. He felt an emptiness suddenly, a void that cut him off from his god. But this did not surprise him, as it had ben the same in his prison cell, cut off and sequestered from the wellspring of power that was the might of Tempus. And he also wasn’t surprised when the white foam formed in his mouth, choking him and preventing him from invoking the holy words that would call down the War God’s wrath and empower him with Tempus’s divinity. He stumbled forward, falling to his knees as he struggled to vomit it and spit out the thick, white foam from his mouth.
Down below, Grogon was pulling aside rumble and wreckage to uncover Abernacky. After several moments of digging, the half-orc fighter hefted away a large stone block only to find that it had broken the man’s neck during the tower’s collapse. Abernacky was beyond help. He cast the large stone block away, and glanced at Wraith. The assassin was alive, but unconscious having been hit by falling beams. Grogon grabbed Wraith by the legs and pulled him to relative safety at the side of the room.
And that was when Grogon noticed the two Drow sneaking down the wooden staircase into the now smoldering room. He gritted his teeth, and sized up the enemy. Both were female wearing what looked like chain mesh body armor. They were carrying scimitars strapped to their backs, and their red eyes seemed to glow in the relative darkness of the room. These were no ordinary Drow. They were elite fighters, maybe even priestesses of Lolth.
Up above, the dragon lurched mightily, launching itself out of the now ruined tower of Helm’s Hold and into the night sky. Sun Tzu, the human monk, held on to the creature’s scales as it sailed upwards. It tried to slap at him with its tail, but missed the target twice. The monk was simply too dexterous, dodging out of the way at the last moment like a fly. The dragon roared angrily, and changed its course, turning to nose dive back down at the tower. Sunz Tzu continued to hang on to the dragon’s back, crouching down between its wings.
The dragon, called Chartilifax, plunged down through the broken tower and opened its jaws to breathe out a huge billowing cone of noxious gas down through the tower and into the large room below. Sun Tzu watched as his comrades succumbed to the poison, knowing full well that it would not affect him because of his connection to the mystical powers of Ki. As the dragon descended, Maug was torn away from the ledge where he was hanging, and knocked to the ground. The dragon landed on the half-orc barbarian, crushing him beneath its gigantic weight. There was no way to know if Maug survived the attack or not hidden as he was under the bulk of Chartilifax.
Above, Adon had recovered from the Curse of Foam, and was watching wide-eyed as the dragon soared past him again. Rt as he was by the monster’s frightening presence, Adon didn’t even attempt to resist the poison gas filtering into and filled the space of the hallway. He didn’t even notice that he had stopped breathing. In fact, the fear had him mezmerized to the point that he never even had the presence of mind to stop himself from falling forward into the deep, dark shaft that yawned in front of him.
Below, Grogon clutched at his throat, coughing and sputtering. He fell to his knees unable to draw breath. Everything went black.
Suz Tzu looked around. He saw two Drow at the far end of the hall near the stairs. Neither of them seemed to be affected by the dragon’s breath weapon. And he could see that several more Drow were coming down the staircase behind the other two. However, both Wraith and Grogon were down. Their skin was a sickly blue and purple, obviously the result of the poison gas. As the dragon started to buck and thrash around in an effort to dislodge the monk, he saw a figure fall from the higher levels of the ruined tower. It was a human dressed in rags and he appeared to be dead or unconscious. He landed roughly on the dragon’s hip, bounced off, and fell into the rubble below. He had fallen victim to the poison gas, as well.
The monk jumped from the back of the dragon, on to a fallen beam, and then ran straight up the vertical surface of the tower to leap into the remains of the first level of the prison tower. As he made his egress, the Drow opened fire with their hand crossbows. Sun Tzu deflected the missiles with almost no effort whatsoever, and then realized that he was standing in complete and utter darkness. He realized right away that the dark elves had used their magical abilities to place a Globe of Darkness at the opening of the hallway. But thanks to Sin Tzu’s keen mind, he had already memorized his surroundings as he was soaring through the air.
Sun Tzu ran through and out of the darkness without difficulty, and down the hallway. He stopped at the first door, and opened it to find a small meeting room. Moving on, he opened the next door to show a long hallway with several more cells. The hallway ended as a wooden staircase that would lead him up or down. He dashed through the hallway, glancing into the cells only to see that each held the corpse of a slaughtered prisoner. He knew that the Drow usually killed their slaves if security was compromised. Apparently, the Drow were making preparation to leave this place because of whatever chaos was happening outside the tower. He watched as a male Drow fighter rushed down the stairs in front of him, not even noticing his presence.
He took two more stepped, and then stopped as he saw another Drow move into sight on the stairs: a stark naked female dark elf. She noticed him right away, and stepped into the hallway to block his path. She started to chant, and spread her fingers out in front of her towards him. Sun Tzu dashed forward, using his momentum to launch himself into a jumping kick … which the elf swiftly dodged away from without losing concentration on her spell. He found his footing quickly, and hit her twice in the solar plexus. She shrugged these off, still chanting. He spun himself forward, launching a roundhouse kick that connected solidly with her face. She was knocked against the wall of the hallway, allowing Sun Tzu to slide past her to stand right near the staircase.
At that moment, the naked Drow woman changed form, melting into a hideous dark yellow Handmaiden of Lolth. It finished its spell, and strands of glowing purple webbing shot out towards Sun Tzu. He sidestepped the webbing, and then watched as it spread to fill the hallway behind him, blocking his escape route.
With the Web spell in place, the yochlol lashed out with its tentacles, intending to slam the monk backwards. However, the monk moved too quickly, parrying one slimy tentacle with a kick and shoving the other away with a violent twist of his elbow. Having failed in its attempts at melee, the demon attempting to beguile the monk using its innate power to Dominate. But again, Sun Tzu’s will proved to be too strong. Shrugging off the demon’s attempt to charm him, he lunged forwrad to smash at it’s bubbling flesh with his fists. As the first blow landed, the monster evaporated, turning into a haze of sickly smelling mist.
Knowing that he could not fight the demn in mist form, the monk dashed down the hallway and jumped back inside the Globe of Darkness. He peeked out to glance below. He saw several Drow on the bottom floor. Most of the fire seemed to be extinguished, perhaps by the dark elves. They were in the process of carrying away the newly arrivedhuman, Maug, Grogon, Abernacky, and Wraith. Two by two, they carried them by the feet and underarms. Several more Drow were acting a escorts, weapons at the ready.One powerfully built male seemed to be giving orders while the two female Drow were talking with the green dragon.
“There is much treasure to be had,” said Brixxa, the first female. “Enough that you will have to make several trips to your hoard to claim it all.”
The dragon snorted at that. “I care not for treasure.” Its melodic voice made it clear that even the thought was boring and beyond his concern.
The second Drow woman, Viernat by name, smiled wickedly. “Ah, but your Queen cares for treasure, does she not? Has she not commanded her children to gather a hoard in preparation for her rise?”
The dragon sneered. “What is it that you know?”
Brixxa and Viernat exchanged knowing glances, twisted grins on their plump lips. “Mother Lolth has much to gain from your Queen’s rise. Pacts have been made, promises exchanged.”
The dragon roared suddenly, the ferocity of it rolling both women back on their heels. “I have no Queen! I serve no Queen!” And with that, the dragon launched itself into the air again, soaring up through the broken tower and into the night sky.
The Drow all stopped for a second, but the males all knew not to linger for any longer than that, for the understood their inferior stations as males. None of them noticed that Adon stirred and sighed softly, opening his eyes.