I wanted to get back into writing, and so started with this little short story following a group of adventurers delving into the Great Rock. I plan to try to do these at least once a week, time permitting.
With a sickening crunch the cowled figure stumbled and dropped, and the cracked halves of a wooden mask clattered to the ground as the body struck the cavern floor.
As he stared down at the crumpled body, Gothar gave a single, satisfied grunt and hefted his blood stained warhammer to his shoulder. Ignoring the bestial snarls and noises of scrambling behind him, Gothar rolled the body over with his boot to reveal the face. Human, just like the one before. With furrowed brow, his eyes fell upon the mask next.
"Uhhh...a little help here?" came a frantic request from nearby, followed immediately by a soft thud and a sharply punctuated curse.
Leaning down to study the body further, Gothar frowned deeply. It was difficult to tell whether or not this particular human had been ugly. No one looked particularly handsome after taking a warhammer to the face. As he pondered the scene further, sudden movement off to the side caught his attention. Confused, his head turned just in time to catch sight of a small man hitting the stone floor, skidding about a dozen feet, and finally come to a rest nearby.
Groaning heavily, the small figure pushed himself slowly to his feet and mumbled vehemently, "Let's go on an adventure, they said. It'll be fun, and pay good coin, they said. What bullocks..."
Having quickly brushed himself off, the man reached down and collected his rapier which had landed a couple of feet away. Straightening, he glanced over to Gothar, an exasperated look upon his face.
"Just what in the hell are you doing?!?" he shouted angrily at Gothar. "I'm getting destroyed in there and you're standing there gaping a--"
Eyes widening, the man dove suddenly to one side, tucking his shoulder and rolling nimbly to his feet next to Gothar as a large, black blur rushed into view. The unnerving sound of powerful jaws snapping shut on air echoed through the chamber as the beast, a massive, three-headed dog, slowly turned to face them. Lowering its three heads in unison, lips slowly drew back from each snout to reveal large, stained teeth in a foreboding set of snarls.
"Big dog, eh Tril?," Gothar grunted as he straightened to eye the beast speculatively. Languidly sliding the warhammer from his shoulder, he let the head fall to rest lightly on the ground.
"Yes, it's a big dog with three heads and a very sour disposition," replied his Tsol'aa companion. "So, this is what we'll do. I'll go le--"
His statement interrupted by the sudden lunging forward of the beast, the man stepped lithely to the side, narrowly avoiding the gnashing teeth of the left sided head that sought to tear into him. With a swift flick of his wrist he brought the length of his rapier up, flourishing with a spin to draw the tip across the snout before twisting away again to avoid another bite from the middle head. So began the duelist's dance as he slashed and dodged and prodded between the two heads with graceful poise.
As the right head lunged towards him, Gothar swung his warhammer up with practised ease, swinging it overhead in a controlled arc. Just as the snarling head came within range, he brought the hammer around, sending it smashing into the side of the beast's skull with tremendous force. Rocked by the blow, the beast staggered, the right head shaking itself slowly as if stunned. Wasting no time, Gothar hefted his warhammer up and overhead once more, letting the haft slide through his grip as he brought it straight down upon the beast's head with a solid, definitive crack. Slamming into the floor, the head bounced with the force of the blow and went limp.
An ear-splitting howl erupted from the middle head, reverberating off the cavern walls as it turned its gaze upon Gothar, eyes burning with fury. With unprecedented swiftness it rushed forward, slamming its massive head into the troll and sending his large frame flying across the cavern to strike the wall heavily. Unable to dodge the sudden sweeping tail as the beast turned towards it's new quarry, Tril was sent tumbling across the floor once more with an audible, "Oopfh!".
Groaning heavily as he pushed himself slowly from the floor, Gothar had barely caught his breath before the beast was upon him, both remaining heads bringing the brunt of their anger to bear against him. The right head lunged forward with jaws agape, seeking to clamp down upon the troll, but finding itself unable to do so. Having shoved the haft of his warhammer laterally between the beasts jaws, Gothar sat braced against the wall, the muscles in his arms bulging and straining with the effort of keeping the gnashing beast at bay. From the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of the other head swinging in and instinctively lashed out to drive a booted heel into the beasts nose, causing it to yelp loudly and withdraw.
"Over here ya mangy mutt!" exlaimed a high pitched voice. Once more on his feet, Tril had dusted himself off with a scowl and stood flourishing his rapier.
"I think we're going to have to send you off to obedience school", he said with a wry grin.
Snarling, the head darted forward, it's large teeth snapping furiously. Twisting expertly out of the way, the Tsol'aa stepped lithely to one side, bringing tip of his rapier slashing across one of the beast's large eyes. Howling abruptly, the head jerked back, shaking and snarling in wounded frustration. As the beast lurched back, the head locked in a contest of strength with Gorath abruptly clamped down on the haft of his warhammer. Giving a vicious shake of the head, it sent him tumbling across the floor, taking the legs out from under a very surprised Tril as Gothar's large frame crashed into him.
Coming to a stop in a heap of sprawled limbs, the two figures frantically untangled themselves and climbed to their feet, both now weaponless. The left head swung around in their direction, the single eye glowering with fury. Gnawing furiously at the haft of the warhammer, the middle head gave it another ragged shake before sending it flying across the cavern to clatter along the floor nearby. Both remaining heads then fixed upon the two men a gaze promising a host of unpleasant endings before it lunged forward in a final assault.
Moments before the twin jaws of the cerberus clamped down upon the bracing figures, something whistled through the air around them. Looking on in surprise, they both watched as an arrow slammed into each head, driving home just inside an eye to either side. Having been struck a deadly blow, the beast promptly toppled, it's momentum carrying it to the floor with a rumble as it slid to stop at their feet amidst a small cloud of dust.
Taking a few cautionary steps back, both men turned to look behind them in astonishment. From the entrance of the caverns strode a black clad figure, her every step and movement silent and sure. Closing in on the figures, she swung her darkbow up and around, sheathing it swiftly and securely within a dark, leather baldric before crossing her arms to stare sullenly at the two slack-jawed figures before her.
"What part of 'quickly and quietly' did you idiots not understand?" she demanded.
Opening his mouth, Tril closed it, then opened it again to respond hesitantly, "Well...you see, what had happened was..." As she level her gaze in his direction, he immediately clamped his mouth shut, offering a sheepish shrug. Seemingly unperturbed by the chastisement, Gothar had once more resumed his silent contemplation of the dead cultist.
"Spare me your excuses, Tril. We'll be lucky if the whole damned place isn't on alert now. We have a job to do, so enough wasting time," she replied.
Rolling her eyes, she pushed past the pair briskly and made her way across the chamber, heading for the corridor on the other side which lead deeper into the caverns. Tril turned to watch her go, crossing his eyes and making a face at her before quickly turning to Gothar as she glanced briefly over her shoulder.
Muttering to himself, Tril walked over to pick up his rapier, gave it a quick once-over, and carefully sheathed it. Scanning the room slowly, his eyes alighted on another item nearby, eliciting a heavy groan from the Tsol'aa. His lute lie on the ground nearby, smashed and in ruins. Collecting it carefully, he stood looking somberly at the broken instrument in his hands as shadow loomed behind him. A large hand clapped him on the back, sending the small man stumbling forward.
"I'm sure we can find someone to fix it," said Gothar, offering a wide, toothy grin, a gesture meant to convey reassurance, as frightening as it was. While Gothar turned and lumbered off in pursuit of their companion, Tril gave a heavy sigh and slung the broken lute over his shoulder. As he had turned to follow, a soft glint caught his eye. Kneeling down next to the corpse of the cultist, he lifted a corner of the dark robes to find a gleaming, golden chalice, eyes wide with wonder as he held it aloft and examined it in the dim light.
Entranced by his find, he barely heard the echoing tune of a troll singing off pitch, a sound that stopped abruptly as a second voice hissed and called for silence. Straightening, Tril quickly tucked the chalice away safely into his pack before turning and jogging to catch up. Perhaps this adventure promised a good payout after all.