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Behold the Beholder!!!

Posted in: Weekly Update by Ariel on January 17, 2008

I am burdened with sorrow and guilt. We rescued the children — well, three of them — but at what price?
I had my disagreements with Ilea, but for all that, she was a good friend and a fearless Paladin. Do you think she can hear us from her prison of stone?

Maple, one of the halfling prisoners, told us confidently that she could lead us to the cells. She had always been blindfolded, but with eyes closed, she could lead the way. Ilea, in tiger form, padded beside her — ever vigilant, ever protective.

Maple moved unerringly through the dungeon. Neither Jeneer nor Sondor were happy with the decision to rescue the others, but they stayed with us for protection.

We met no one. It was all too easy. Until we crossed the bridge. Maple was unsure of the way — was it a turn and 15 paces or 15 paces and a turn? Ilea seemed certain; she turned and headed along the river path and as Maple moved forward, her confidence seemed to grow. “Yes,” she said. “This is the way. The temperature stays the same! I hadn”t thought of that!”

She paused at a door. “Bad things happen behind this door.” Cinder came forward, checked the door for traps and we debated in whispers. What next? Maple was certain we would find guards in the next room. Sadi suggested we throw something like a handful of rocks into the room to distract the guards. Mintilly cast light on one of her sling bullets, and added another couple to her hand. Cinder opened the door as quietly as she could and flung the bullets to her left.

There were four hobgoblin guards. Two had been asleep (oh well, so we woke them) and two, on the left, were startled by the bullets and us. Cinder got off a shot at one of the sleepy ones. Nice, solid hit. Ilea, never one to wait long, pounced on one of the left-hand guards. She made short work of him. The blood went everywhere. Myntilly blasted magic missiles at the other sleepy guard and wounded him. Sadi”s shot helped Cinder and I decided to take a swing at the one uninjured guard. Pelor guided my aim and I dealt grievous damage. In moments, we had killed them all. Maple walked in, surveyed the carnage (for truly it was pretty grim in there) and said with wonder, “Who are you people?” I think we all laughed wearily. And for myself, looking around, I wondered the same thing. I looked down at the blood on my boots, and I thought to myself, “I am the light of Pelor?”

I didn”t have time to follow that chain of thought because a door to my left opened suddenly. A dark-skinned dwarf stared into my eyes and quickly shut the door. He looked startled. And scared. Ilea and I obviously had the same thought: I lunged for the door and barely got it open in time for her to thunder through.

I was sickened by what I saw — a human woman was tied up, arms above her head and the wounds on her body were horrible to see. I tore my eyes from her and saw several people. One dark-skinned dwarf seemed different from the others. I can”t tell you what it was that made him stand out — was he taller? I don”t know, but when I looked at him the hair on the back of my neck rose.

Again, Ilea and I seemed to have the same thoughts, the same feelings, because she seemed to leap on him in one movement. He was too nimble and he dodged the sweep of her massive paws. The other crowded to the doorway beside me. Myntilly was beside me and then we were both sliding and grabbing each other for balance: we”d been greased! A hobgoblin that had been beside his human victim saw Cinder, grunted with fury and somehow leaped over me and through the door to her! His flailing attack all but missed her, thankfully. Sadi”s arrows were nocked and ready, but did she have a shot? Between our heads? Towards a prisoner? She couldn”t risk it.

The thrice-damned dwarves were spellcasters. Everyone of them. Thankfully Ilea”s second attack did not miss the leader. After that, it was but short work — a levitation spell, a few arrows — and the evil ones were down. Finally I could stand on solid ground, shake off the dazzle spell and focus on the human woman.

I know my voice was shaky (perhaps the sleep spell had some lingering effects) as I asked my friends to cut the woman”s bonds. I tried to be as gentle as possible as I healed her visible wounds. Only Pelor can heal the wounds inside. Her name was Corystan and she told us that she was a retired adventurer and she would help us free the others. Cinder asked her about guards as we walked into the other room. She said, “There are four….. there were four guards and you”ve taken care of them.” A grim smile played across her face.

We rescued four more people from the cells. None were children. Only one, an unshaven man named Krylscar, was hearty enough to want a weapon. The other were too sick or scared or disoriented to do more than stand there.

Ilea suddenly bounded off. It shocked us all, but we realized that she probably wanted to change to human and she would need the armor that we had forgotten to carry with us from the antechamber. Ilea, the human, came rushing up to us. She had just missed someone — a far door closed just as she entered the antechamber! Hope blazed in our hearts! The children!
Breathless, Ilea said, “It”s not too late!”

We quickly armed Corystan and Krylscar. As they often do, Cinder and Ilea led the way. Myntilly followed then the freed prisoners with me and Sadi at the end. We hadn”t gone very far when we stopped. Cinder made her way back to us. “There is no way that we”ll get these folks through the next room,” she said quietly. “It”s like some gods damned trophy room! The heads and skins…. They (and her hand swept out towards the halflings, dwarves and gnomes) will freak.”

I closed my eyes and said a small prayer. “OK, everyone! Please listen to me. I want you to close your eyes tight. You will close your eyes and you will not open them until I tell you to. Is that clear?” I turned to speak to Sadi and Cinder and almost laughed because their eyes were closed. “You guys can open your eyes,” I muttered.

The antechamber was on the other side of the trophy room. (Its horrors still play across my mind. He will pay for each “trophy”; I swear by rays of Pelor that slaver will pay.) We placed the freed prisoners near the elevator entrance. “Stay here and stay alert.”

Ilea strode to the door she”d seen closing and Cinder opened it slowly. In the distance she could see two men, a spined hound, and the children! One of the men was herding the children away into the darkness. Cinder fired an arrow and missed. I cast a hasty “hold person” spell. Too hasty — it did not work. Ilea changed back to tiger form. Sadi and Mintilly were both able to send attacks at the slavers. The spined hound charged toward us only to be met by a full grown and righteously angry tiger. He yelped in pain. The nearer slaver hurried up to us smoothing down his hair.

“Friends!” he cried. “Do you wish to buy?” He held his hands out, palms up. We were all speechless for a moment. What a truly slimy man! How dare he think that we wanted….. “Yes! Yes,” I cried. “I want to buy those children!”

He turned his head, confused. “Those
childr –? But, but my friends (and his voice regained its charm), my friends, those children are not for sale. Let me show you some prime stock!” He motioned us to go back through the door.

“I want those children,” I said with all the charisma I could muster. “My father needs children for his rug factories. Their little finger weave such intricate designs.”

The slaver stopped his hand motions. He shrugged. He called to his friend: “They want to buy the children!” He could not keep the amusement out of his voice. We haggled. I tried to get the children away from the slavers but they were persistent. Finally we settled on 600 gold for the four of them. Cinder handed them a bag of mostly counterfeit coins. Sadi and Myntilly rushed forward to take the children when suddenly a voice said “This one is not for sale!” A beholder appeared and enveloped one of the children; it was Terrem. The slavers fell over themselves in apology: “Sorry lord! Forgive us, lord!” All we could think was — we can”t left him go! Sadi called his name. “Terrem! Come here!” But the child was entranced or terrified and did not move.

I worried about the safety of the others, back in the antechamber. I gathered the three children and hustled them through the door. Again with a small prayer, I organized them into a marching order. Maple in front, Krylscar in the middle and Corystan in back. I told them to take the elevator up and to wait there for us.

By the time I got back, Ilea had been turned to stone. I found out later that she”d bounded down the ramp and ran right at the beholder. She got two attacks with her deadly claws before the beholder shot a petrifying ray at her. Once he had done that, he and the child disappeared.

The slaver, true to type, wanted to continue our business discussion. He had heard of my father and his rugs and was determined to make another sale. Perhaps my father needed other types of workers…..? We exchanged contact information. His name is Kasmojin. For my part I wanted to make sure I knew the name of the man I would kill.

1 Comment

  1. […] them. Like at least once a week someone’s gotta talk about how their friend was turned to stone by a beholder. Snore. I mean it’s an exciting story, once. After a couple dozen recitations, […]

    Pingback by Beholders, Theory and Practice | Dungeon Divas — October 16, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

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