22nd day of Alturiak. Late Afternoon. Underdark.
Plunked down by the wall of the darkened tunnel, Gnore dreams of the great feasting hall of Valholl. With endless platters of food and bottomless barrels of drink, the dwarf shares valiant tales of the Red Feather Company with the brave dwarven warriors who fell in honorable battle amidst a glorious end. A fit of laughter erupts from the group as a dwarf next to Gnore relates his tale of splendor. It is then that Gnore spies a familiar sight from the corner of his left eye. Turning to view the forms approaching, a smile of joyous recognition beams from the dwarf's face as he stands to greet Brother Randor. Standing next to him Gnore offers a respectful bow to Zir'Zool who spent only a fraction of time with the Company, is still reserved a rightful place among the roll of the RFC members. A genuine sense of peace blankets Gnore in the presence of his two former companions, yet the dwarf senses something in error. He looks upon the faces of his friends as he sees sadness in their eyes, even though their mood is festive in light of the merriment. Gnore is about to ask how the pair came to feast within this hallowed hall when voices afar interrupt his dream and call his mind and his soul back to reality.
Kersath does not share Gnore's dream of the feast and meeting lost companions. His unconscious sleep is plagued, on the other hand, by visions of his mentor, One-eyed Aderk RockCrusher. Visions from his childhood when he first learned how to hold a blade in his hand, a feeling that was then unfamiliar to him. "Didna tell ya lad? Do na charge at the target like a crazed rabbit! Ye know what happens to rabbits, right? They get eaten! So think! Your rage is important boy, but never let it overrun everything else! That is the point when you will make the most mistakes! That is the point when you die!"
The lecture is followed by a series of attempted attacks from the young Kersath, all wild and passionate but obviously with no experience behind them. They are all easily foiled by the old teacher, often resulting in Kersath landing on his bottom and his neck under his teacher's blade. "What did'a tell ye? Fight with yer heart, but aim with yer mind lad! Do you think that when you're older and more powerful, ye're still gonna charge unthinking into battle? ha!" The old gnome bellows, "That will result in one thing--you serving as first course to the darn beast!"
Apparently, even years later, Kersath hasn't learned that thinking before charging into a monster that is three times larger than him might be occasionally helpful. The passions of youth...
Back in the realm of the living and conscious, Kre stands up slowly and looks around the cavern, "Man, it looks like we got hit hard. Are Kersath and Gnore going to be ok?" Seeing the nod of Garth's head, he sighs in relief. As he starts to limp towards the still form of Kersath, he sucks in a sharp breath from pain. "I think I'll sit back down. I'm still a bit battered from my encounter." Shaking off the fatigue of his own body, Garth moves over to the side of Kre to see to his wounds. Within moments, the wounds to the half-elf have closed up and the pink color of healing shows on them.
Snagger takes a seat against the wall of the tunnel as he tries to calm his nerves, looking at his blood covered body as he does so, "Yech, I think I just may burn this cloak. See'n as how there's so much blood on it I don' think I'll ever get it all out. But see'n as how me blood ain't green, I can't uv made out too bad."
Ortho leans against a wall briefly to catch his breath, "Whew! That was close," says the dwarf as he echoes the words of Kre. "Snag, Druck, that was one fine stand ye two put on. It saved Gnore an' Kersath." Ortho obviously has newfound respect for Snagger's prowess in battle.
Snagger smiles at the compliments of Ortho, "Wal, I ou'd ave ta say that me first battle wit' ye has shone ya what ah can do at me best. Too bad some a ye weren't as lucky. Well, I ain't a healer, me hand ain't exact or gentle enuff. But if any of ye need me ta do somethin', just ask. Otherwise, I'll go an be a lookout. Ah think I'll rest first though."
Snagger sits back to relax and compose himself, then groans and draws himself up, "Ergh, maybe more a this blood is mine den I thought there was. I think I may need tha touch o' ye priests."
After taking a seat and checking his wounds, Kre asks of Talimar, "Well, what's next? We have to get some rest here before moving on, though I'm not sure if it'll be safe going down those passages either. It seems to be where their main caverns are. I think our best tactic would be to lure them out a few at a time instead of charging into their tribe."
At the words from Kre, Talimar turns from his position near the wall, "For now, those who have healing powers, see to the wounded." As his instructions are carried out, Talimar gazes back to the wall of ice as he looks at the shadowy figures of the Trolls on the other side. Spaced out along the wall, five Trolls hammer and scratch at the wall in a vain effort of knocking it down. For the moment, the wall appears to be holding but neither Talimar nor Dain know how long that will last.
Moving over to Gnore's still form, Ortho inspects his mate's wounds. Pulling forth the small silver hammer from about his neck, he calls on the holy energies of Moraddin to heal the proud dwarf. Rising from Gnore's side, he crosses the passage to Kersath and performs the same act of goodness on the elven Ranger.
Seated next to Druckner, Beleg removes his helm and closes his eyes as he starts a prayer to Forseti. Completing the prayer, he calls on the healing power of his deity bestowed to the Paladin's of his order. Visualing his body underneath the steel protection of his armor, he focuses on the healing energy coursing through his limbs to combat the infection caused by the vile Trolls as well as sealing the gruesome slash marks of their claws. Within moments he can feel the pain ease away and strength return to his scarred body.
The large Paladin watches Ortho and Garth work to help the wounded and offers his aid. "Ortho, Garth, though I am not skilled at evaluating wounds, Forseti has granted me the gift of his magic. Tell me which of our companions is in the greatest need and I will add Forseti's blessing to those of might Moraddin and gracious Selune."
"Help Snagger and Druck. If'n ther's any more fightin' ta do, they're the ones that will 'ave ta do it. Gnore an' Kersath aren't goin' ta be walkin' soon no matter 'ow much ye heal 'em," says Ortho to Beleg.
Beleg nods and moves to Snagger. Kneeling beside the ferocious warrior, he intones a prayer to Forseti. As he feels the power of his lord infuse him, he lays his hands upon the wounded dwarf. He smiles grimly at Snagger, then moves to do the same for Druckner.
Druckner leans against the tunnel wall trying to catch his breath, his axe between his knees as Beleg moves over to administer to his wounds. "Wahl, that was a rumble! Trolls are among ta most vicious an' evil enemies of the 'folk."
"Ya put up a fahn struggle yerself kin Ortho," he continues with a look to the dwarven priest. "An' ye, young Snag, Ah'll name ye the Badger, 'cause yer ferocious in battle an' ye've got funny teeth," he smiles to his new companion across the tunnel. "An' also Garth an' Kre an' Ras an' the mighty Dain. An' fallen Kersath, Beleg an' Gnore. A proud battle fer the Red Feather Company."
"We'll have ta retreat some more afore them Trolls gat organized. An' next time, let's not charge blindly, shall we? We shoulda fought this battle from this here tunnel."
Beleg nods in agreement with Druckner's comments as he finishes healing his wounds. "You are absolutely right, friend Druckner. We should have fought the battle here. Unfortunately, we didn't really have time to withdraw. I thank the gods that we've survived and ask for their continued blessings."
Sheathing his sword, Talimar turns away from the ice wall and reaches into a pouch at his side, pulling forth a few spell components. "When the icewall goes down, I will cast a web spell to trap the Trolls, after that whoever has the oil throw some over the Trolls so they are nice and flammable; then put a torch to the web, that should make things a bit easier. Those who are able will then attack the Trolls at the mouth of this tunnel. Before we get too tired or hurt, everyone fall back and let Dain create another wall of ice to give us some respite. Don't follow the Trolls out of the cave mouth, we have the advantage here, and the support of each other."
Frowning at the Trolls again, he adds, "Unless of course someone has some better ideas? I don't think we will need Ortho to play bait, the way they look they will be happy to attack, we won't need Ortho's ugly mug to draw them out."
Ortho frowns at the jeering words of the elf as Druckner bursts into laughter from the elf's humor considering their current situation. Beleg sits and removes his helmet as Talimar speaks. Fatigue is plain upon his youthful visage. Drawing his sword, he murmurs a few words under his breath and he appears much refreshed. "That is a sound plan, friend Talimar. I will place myself in the forefront and make an assult upon any of the beasts that avoid your dweamorcrafting. Perhaps I can make amends for my poor performance in the chamber."
Ortho looks up from checking out his pack and that of Gnore before clearing his throat. "Ahem. Great plan but one small problem. Gnore was ta only one carryin' any oil and ye'all used that up in the chamber ta burn those we'd downed. We don' have any other oil. I'll have ta go up the chamber ta find the mules first." Looking at all the others, Ortho notices Ras for the first time. Apparently unhurt, the halfing just sits to the side of the tunnel staring at the wall of ice. His arms folded across his chest, his teeth are shattering as he stares wide-eyed ahead. Noticing his friend in shock from his phobia of cold, Ortho calls out his name," Ras! Snap out of it lad, Ah need yer help if ye don' mind!"
After a few spirited shakes from the dwarf, Ras does indeed snap out of his condition to look at Ortho, "What? So much cold..." he stammers.
"Ah need yer help. We're goin' after tha mules. They shouldn't be too far but they'll keep moving away if Ah don't go after 'em," explains Ortho. "We need the oil an' the mules ta carry Gnore and Kersath."
Ras shakes his head as he slowly stands, still not really understanding the needs of the dwarf but willing to follow him to get away from the terrible wall of ice. Talimar frowns at the realization of no readily available oil.
"Hurry back if ye can. We'll go with our original plan as much as possible if the Trolls do break free."
Ortho nods and hands his signal whistle over to Snagger. "Blow this loudly if Ah need ta get back 'ere immediately." A broken-toothed grin signifies Snagger's understanding.
Ortho turns and begins to walk tiredly up the passage in search of the missing mules, thankfull for Ras' companionship and assistance, even considering the halfling's current state.
"Bring back Doris an' Mabel!" calls Druckner after Ortho as he sees the pair walk up the tunnel. "Ah've taken a shine to those ladies. Ah'll stand guard here wit' ta Badger!"
As Ortho and Ras disappear from sight down the tunnel, Snagger and Druckner move the unconscious Kersath and Gnore away from the wall of ice. Returning to the front, they take up a position beside Beleg in preparation for the fall of the wall of ice. Talimar and Garth stand a few feet behind them as Kre and Dain bring up the rear. A broad smile crosses the features of both Snagger and Druckner as they watch the Trolls beat and claw at the ice from the other side. Beleg face is invisible behind the protective guard of his helm as he holds Troll's Bane before him, the light provided by the sword easily illuminating the tunnel.
"Ah don' think that walls gonna hold much longer," remarks Snagger to the others as the image of the Trolls becomes more clearer, the ice being hacked away.
Dain shrugs his shoulders as he watches the work of the beasts and grasps the ash rod in his right hand. Talimar draws forth his sword once again and calls to Snagger, "Ready that whistle, Snagger. We might be needing Ortho and Ras sooner than we had hoped."
Snagger nods his head as he places the whistle into his mouth, ready to blow it in case the wall falls.
Several more anxious moments of waiting follow as the companions watch the work of the dilligent Trolls on the far side of the wall. Although nervous and anxious with the coming danger of the Trolls before them, everyone is thankful for the precious moments of rest afforded them. As the Trolls become clearer on the other side, a ripple of magic can be felt by the mages and priests of the party rushing through the tunnel from the other side of the wall.
"Be careful," speaks Dain to everyone. "There apparently is a shaman on the other side of the wall."
Beleg, Snagger and Druckner acknowledge the words of the mage with the rise of their respective weapons before them. Beleg checks the grip on his shield as well, hefting it chest level before him. Snagger and Druckner grip their battle-axes two-handed as they step to the side of the big warrior between them, effectively closing off any passage through the three companions.
Moving through the darkened tunnel of the Underdark, Ortho speaks quietly to Ras about his travels through the lands of Faerun, especially his time spent in Anauroch, the Great Desert, anything to take the halfling's mind from his current chilly surroundings.
"You mean they never have winter there?" asks Ras increduously.
"You must take me there after we get out of here," pleads Ras.
"Ye 'ave me word on it," smiles Ortho.
"One more thing," begins Ras, "promise me that if I should...Um...you know...die here, that you won't bury me in this cold land. Take me some place warm?"
Ortho looks down at his companion and frowns deeply at the usually upbeat halfling's pessimistic request. "Ye won' be dying down here, friend. Not if Ah have anythin' ta do 'bout it."
"But you might not," replies Ras as he places a hand on Ortho's forearm and halts the priest. "Just promise me."
Looking into the serious eyes of the halfing, Ortho can do nothing but promise, "I will."
"Thank you," replies Ras as his mood immediately improves.
The two continue down the tunnel for a few hundred yards or more when Ortho puts a hand out to quietly stop Ras. Pointing ahead, he can make out several shapes standing around sixty yards ahead. Ortho relaxes as he makes out the shapes to be that of the mules. Still on guard, the two walk quietly forward to retrieve the animals. As they draw to within twenty yards, a small gnome steps around Hazel and waves to the two.
"I found them," he calls out in Common to the companions, a broad smile across his face. "Me Omwojak. I follow you and these come running up tunnel. Me calm them and wait."
"Omwo...Ah'll call ye Jak," replies Ortho as he struggles with the Svirfneblin's name. "Thanks a lot, Jak. We were lookin' fer these 'ere beauties. No injuries to 'em, I hope?"
Omwojak shakes his head slowly as he answers the dwarf's question. "This one had cut leg," he says as he points to a patch on Noah's front leg. "Ah patch it up," he says with pride.
"Thank you," responds Ortho as he looks over the neatly patched scratch in the mules leg. From the looks of it, the mule cut it on one of the stalagmites rising from the tunnel floor. As Ortho is finishing his examination of the wound and Ras gathers the reins of the other mules, a long and loud call from a whistle echoes down the tunnel.
"Damn!" curses Ortho. "They was supposed ta wait fer us!"
"Here they come," smiles Druckner as a large chunk of ice breaks from the wall before him, the arm of the Troll carried through by the force of the blow. The limb is quickly pulled back through the hole before Druckner can sever it with his axe. A loud TWEEEEET erupts from the whistle of Snagger as he signals for the return of Ortho and Ras.
As the call of the whistle echoes down the tunnel, Snagger lets the instrument drop from his mouth as he raises his axe before him. The wall of ice finally explodes in a shower of ice chunks, most getting swatted away by the large shield of Beleg. Rushing forth after the shards of ice, the Trolls enter the tunnel and run at the two dwarves and mighty Paladin in their path. All of the vile, green-skinned beasts have the topknot of hair that the others had.
Looking at the charging beasts before him, Beleg gazes upon what can only be the leader of the clan. Coming at him is a rather powerful and brutal looking female Troll wearing a tiara of apparently human and demi-human teeth bound into silver around her twin heads. Each of the two heads of the shaman growl in rage at the large warrior standing before her and the glowing sword in his hands.
"Greezelet eat all!" shouts the right head of the Troll in Common as she and the other four Trolls rush the Companions.