8th day of Elesias. Razor-rock tunnels. Underdark.
Kersath shakes his head in frustration, "How did the svirfneblin get across to map the rest of the tunnels? This just doesn't make sense... Although I see no other way, I'm afraid to say we might have come across an obstacle we can't pass. Maybe it is better that we go and face the grells," he finishes with a sigh.
"Remember, friend Kersath, the little ones probably have no trouble moving slowly across the rock to map the tunnels beyond," begins Beleg. "Druckner has adequately shown that moving across the rock is not impossible and I'm sure the smaller feet or Ras and the deep gnomes would have even less trouble. It is the mules and their inability to move across the rock that is forcing us to turn back."
Ras raises one foot to look at it's small size after the words of Beleg. A furrow creasing his forward slightly, he shrugs his diminutive shoulders and moves over to prepare his belongings to move out once again.
"We can work something out with the mules," offers Rannigan. "I've already offered several suggestions..."
Dain grumbles under his breath, frowning towards Rannigan, "It just won't work... Magic can ne're solve everything. After all those incantations, we'd be more tired than if we carried the mules and wore pans, hoofing it all the way..." The frustrated wizard takes a draw off his pipe, only to find in frustration that it has gone out. Cursing softly, he snaps his finger causing an orange spark to leap from them, into his pipe and re-lighting it. As he once again drifts into deep thoughts, new smoke rings begin to join the rest collecting on the cavern ceiling.
Rannigan frowns deeply and becomes quite surprised at the words of Dain, apparently unable to comprehend the thought that magic can't possibly solve every problem the world can offer; at least theoretically anyway.
After what seems like an eternity, Dain once again comes back to reality and notices his pipe has once again gone out. "Oh, curse all of it! I see no way around it. Even Grells, whatever they may be would be better than this frustration." With that, Dain sucks back to a largish rock and sits, removing his journal, he reviews it by stone light whilst the rest of his companions begin the process of turning the mules around and preparing to move out.
Bright red with frustration, Druckner rumbles, "Olright! Olright! Let's turn ta mules around! Moradin nae be willin' ta see us go this way Ah guess. Ta Grells it'll be I s'pose, though it seems foolish ta me. Some weird beasties ahn exchange fer sem good rock!"
Ortho resignedly punches the mules into action and turns them about in the closeness of the tunnel. Uncharacteristically patient, the dwarven priest waits silently for the order to move out and back.
"Let's be off then," replies Talimar to everyone. "Druckner and Kersath, please take the point and scout ahead, Ras you have our rear-guard. Everyone else, you know your positions. Ortho and Garth, keep the mules quiet as usual, I don't want these Grells or anyone else being made aware of our approach before-hand."
It is with heavy hearts and a growing sense of impatience that the company turns back north and up the passage toward the split in the tunnels and onward to the Grells. Despite the newfound presence of a growing evil within the deep tunnels, all of the companions are aware that their initial charge and goal is to find the missing mage Jelenneth. All are aware that each passing moment diminishes the hope of ever finding the girl alive; if their even exists such a hope after so much time. Back-tracking, regardless of the validity of such an action, is something that doesn't sit well with any of the members of the Red Feather Company...
From the Journal of Dain Blackfeather:
Another day of quiet travel takes us further from the frustration of the razor-rock and the impenetrable obstacle that it became. There seems to be a feeling of defeat that has washed over every one of us because of the rock. So far cold steel, skill at arms, quick relfexes and the occasional use of deadly magic has carried well through every obstacle; the rock provided the first challenge that couldn't be overcome by brute force alone and everyone feels the weight of failing such a challenge.
Beleg and Garth speak frequently about the pervading presence of or 'feeling' of evil in the tunnels, especially as we have traveled south. They try to keep their conversations and concerns quiet but in truth, we all feel it. Rasmussen is the only one that seems to have the force of will to keep the foreboding feelings from dampening his spirits. The rest of us have been effected in some way or other, one time or another. For the moment, most of the effects have resulted in the other companions sitting off to themselves or turning in to their own thoughts. The normal light-hearted banter and joking of the dwarves has slowly decreased, the few attempts at humor appearing to be more along the lines of obligation rather than true attempts at comraderie. Again, Rasmussen is the exception to this, his manner continuing to be light-hearted and fun-loving. Other than the cold he constantly complains about, you might get the idea that he has no clue he's traveling some of the darkest and most dangerous passages below the surface of Fearun.
I feel that Beleg continues to be a concern as well, the large Paladin feels a concern that his height and bulk may become a problem in the ever changing tunnels. The fear is readily apparent on his face every time we move through a tunnel that shrinks to an uncomfortable width. Make no mistake, the great warrior has no fear for his own life but he doesn't want his size to be a concern for the others and cause injury or worse, the death of someone else. In all honesty, I don't know that he could take it if his presence or actions lead to the death of one of the others. He doesn't see what strength his presence and skill with that great sword give to the others. I will continue to watch him however and offer encouragement whenever I can. For all his skill with that sword, he is still a young man at heart and mind.
For my part, I continue to enjoy the journey into the unknown, as much as one could possibly call it 'enjoyment' at having to constantly worry about being attacked or killed. It has been a tremendous learning experience however and I continue to label and catalogue as many new creatures that I find crawling or flying around through the dark tunnels. I have several interesting ideas for variations on several spell components. I anxiously await the time when we return to the surface and I can utilize the lab of Tauster...
"What are you always writing in that book there?" asks Gnore as he walks into the circle of light afforded by Dain's glow stone.
"The history of our journey through the Underdark. The Trials and Tribulations of the Red Feather Company. My own thoughts and musings, whatever I wish to write at the time."
"History?!" asks Gnore as a small smile plays at the corners of his mouth. "I thought you wanted to be a great mage, not a bard to be telling tall-tales and singing pretty songs. That's what we brought Beleg along for afterall!"
Sitting on a large rock with his back against the cold stone of the cavern wall, Dain takes a long pull on his pipe. "Being a great mage means living a long time. As a human, I am not born with the ability of long-memory that is so prevalent in our elven friends or even dwarves such as yourselves. I am forced to write my thoughts and findings down so that years later I will be able to remember them."
"So writin' in one of them books makes you a great mage?" asks Gnore as he continues the gentle prodding.
"Certainly not," continues Dain. Another draw on the pipe before he exhales slowly, two identical circles of smoke rising into the air. As Gnore begins to speak again, the circles start to take on a shape and life of their own. The left-most circle of smoke closes upon itself and takes on a large shape, twisting and turning into a much smaller and less deadlier version of a great black Dragon. The right circle slowly takes the form of a short but stout dwarven warrior, a long flowing, incorporeal beard reaching below it's plate-mailed waist. The rest of the companions look on in awe at the illusion created by Dain with the smoke rings of his pipe. As the great dragon rears up and appears to start to breath acidic death on the dwarf below it, the dwarf draws forth a great two-handed sword. It's mouth circles into what appears to be a great war-cry before the smokey blade comes forward in a vicious cut to the dragon. As the smoke-filled gut of the beast splits from the blade, Dragon and Dwarf dissipate in a smokey cloud before the smiling and awe-struck Gnore.
"Being a great mage is no more dependent upon being a great writer as being a legendary dwarven warrior is dependent upon a true heritage..." offers Dain in answer.
"Har!! I think I like you more and more, mage," answers Gnore as he laughs at the grinning mage before him. "I still don't trust yer magic, but I like you!"
Dain smiles at the dwarf as he turns and walks back toward the laughing Ortho and Druckner. "Looks like the joking hasn't gone completely," mutters Dain softly to himself.
Late in the afternoon of the next day, the companions are silently called to a halt by Talimar as he notices the outline of two creatures in the tunnel ahead. As everyone takes up a defensive stance, Talimar quietly signals the all clear as the shapes turn out to be Kersath and Druckner. The red-bearded dwarf's face is emotionless as he steps back toward the others, Kersath wears a deep frown of concern.
"The tunnel ahead is exceptionally quiet. Too quiet," relay's the dark elf to Talimar and the others.
"Got me a bad feelin', 'bout it," responds Druckner.
The tunnel the group stands in is about fifteen to twenty feet wide at points with a ceiling height of anywhere from twenty-one to thirty feet. Beleg appears relaxed to some degree as he feels more comfortable with the spacing should any trouble arise.
"There's something else," says Kersath with a frown. "Be quiet and follow us."
With numerous questions at the forefront of the minds of each of the companions, everyone remains quiet for the moment as they draw together and slowly and quietly move out following the dark elf and the nimble dwarf. After walking perhaps thirty feet through the narrow and quiet tunnels, they reach a point in the tunnel that appears no different than any of the rest. Kersath quickly points out a slight scratch mark in the tunnel wall to his left. It is indeed a clear scratch mark that points diagonally to the ground. Despite the search efforts of the companions, no note, no secret door, no treasure or clue can be found below the mark or anywhere in the vicinity.
"Whatever it be, someone meant fer somethin' ta be found 'ere," rumbles Ortho as the search continues.
"How far to the Grells?" questions Talimar.
"Don' know," answers Druckner. "We didna go nae further than this. Too quiet ahead, didnae wanna be ambushed..."
"Wise decision," mutters Rannigan with a look to Dain.
"Well ambush or no, what are we waitin' on?" asks Gnore with a determined look to Talimar.
"I'm with me dwarven cousin," responds Snagger as he hefts his axe. "Been too long withoot any good bloodshed fer me, I say let's clean out these 'ere Grells and be makin' our way south."
"Any suggestions?" offers Talimar as he looks to the others.