|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 1 ||
"No bones," Robin pointed out, supported by Jared.
"That doesn't mean the bones didn't get up and become part of his undead horde."
"Always the negative thinker," Jared chided him.
They kept moving carefully. No wall slammed down, no fireball came after them; they could hear the statue attempting to turn, but the rods held it. The corridor narrowed after a few more steps, and off to the right and left were two stone gargoyles in niches. Ugly things, about waist height. In front of them was an archway. Robin lifted her torch and read, "Fear death, mortal, for it will seek you out even as you read these words." They all took a couple steps back immediately.
Robin waved her spear between the gargoyles, to see if some trap went off, then poked one of the statues. It made a clonking sound, and something inside sloshed. That was not reassuring. Harrick knelt down to examine the floor of the arch from a ways away. Robin kept prodding with her spear, and came up against a tripwire. She had a little bit of pressure on it, and no way of knowing if it was more pressure, or the release, that would set it off. "Guys, get back." Once they were clear, she pulled away and threw herself back. Nothing seemed to happen.
They dithered over whether it would be a good idea to try to set off the trap and decided against it. The gargoyles didn't seem animate, anyway. Terzin decided this would be a good time to take the lead, and handed his lantern to Harrick. He ran, leaped, cleared the heads of the gargoyles so as not to pass between them, landed on the far side of the wire, rolled up with his sword drawn. Nothing. The others stepped carefully through the arch. The corridor kept on for about five paces, then made a left turn. Robin took the lead again, peeked around.
There was another room. As she passed the threshold, Harrick sensed elemental magics moving; a bound air elemental had flown past. They heard a thump and the sound of some liquid spilling onto the stone. Terzin went back to take a look. He had to backpedal a few feet to keep from stepping in whatever was spilling out of the gargoyles. Not oil or anything flammable; not acid, though it looked a little greenish. He reported to the others.
"Don't get it on you!" Harrick ordered. It was a slime. Anyone who stepped in it would shortly join its substance. Another elemental.
"We'll have to find another exit, then," Robin sighed.
"If we find anything made of wood, we can probably burn it, it's a water elemental." Still, he didn't look happy to have their retreat cut off so quickly.
The room held a series of five statues running down its long axis. At one end stood a strong, stalwart, knightly gentleman with a sword; at the other, an emaciated figure with tendrils drooping from its face, three fingers instead of four. The others showed what appeared to be stages in transformation. The corridor kept going on the other side of the room. There didn't seem to be anything interesting here.
They kept going. Harrick sensed another air elemental waiting at the door, much stronger than the last one. Somewhere, hidden, was the binding, but it might take forever to find if it had been baked into a statue or something. They passed it with a collective shrug; it didn't seem to do anything.
The new corridor slanted down, and after a while took a gradual leftward turn. They could hear a roaring noise; water, moving fast, and soon they saw it. Apparently, at some point the Greenbriar went underground. Waterfalls poured down on either side of their path, which had become a stone bridge, about thirty feet long and slightly arched. It was kind of beautiful.
Robin continued in the lead, tapping at the bridge to ensure its solidity. She was about ten feet ahead of Harrick at that point, in hopes that if something jumped out and killed her he would have time to react.
She was halfway across the bridge when six figures came leaping out through the water on either side. Six to seven feet tall, with tails, scales, fangs, and lizard-heads. Three in front of her, one directly behind, and two closer to Harrick. They were all armed with cudgels. Surprised as she was, Robin's reflexes came to her aid, and she assumed a defensive stance immediately, surrounded by four lizardmen. The dropped torch guttered but didn't go out.
"Tell Dad I died bravely?" she asked Terzin, catching a cudgel in the y of her toad spear while another slammed into her shoulder. Good toad-skin armor took the worst of it, but that stung. Two attacked Harrick, battering the startled orc. The lizardmen hissed as they advanced quickly; their splayed feet gave them good traction on the stone. One of the two attacking Harrick noticed Jared and Terzin and moved in on them, brandishing its club. Terzin thrust at it with his sword, but his blade glanced off the thing's scaled hide.
Harrick missed with his thorn attack. The lizardman spun around, attempting to sweep the orc's legs out from under him with his tail, but Harrick leaped adroitly out of the way. Robin remained surrounded; one of the four abandoned her in favor of moving toward the rest of the group, but that still left her in bad circumstances as she continued to parry cudgels frantically.
"I've killed toads bigger than you!" she muttered defiantly. A tail slammed into her, not quite hard enough to knock her over. Another blow would have made her wince if she'd had time. Terzin's foe struck him a heavy blow, but he kept his feet. Jared did not currently have an opponent, although a third lizardman was heading toward the end of the bridge where he stood. His hands were his strength; he waded in against the one facing Terzin and landed a solid blow. It lost its balance, fell off the bridge and into the falling water, which carried it quickly out of sight. His moment of elation was interrupted when the new one charged and swung a cudgel straight into his chin, knocking him flat on his back, stunned.
The lizardman then turned toward Terzin, who backed away, toward the center of the bridge, gaining himself some space to maneuver, parrying the cudgel brilliantly with his blade. Harrick's opponent continued to wale away at him, but didn't land a truly solid blow. Thorns flew true this time, knocking the lizard over as its chest appeared to explode. Waving its arms to try to regain its balance, the waterfall caught one of its hand and drew it down into the torrent.
One of the lizardmen seemed to want Robin's blood particularly badly. His cudgel hit her solidly, but she parried the other two. Her vision was starting to get blurry. I'm going to die here, aren't I? She went after the one who was so determined to kill her, gashed him badly enough to force him back a step and gain herself some breathing room.
Terzin continued to display unheralded virtuosity with the sword in defending himself as Jared regained his feet, spitting out a tooth. The big fisherman charged one of the ones after Robin, dove on it from behind and half crushed its throat before tossing it into the river. It was the one that really wanted to kill her.
"I could probably get my mom to like you," Robin gasped in relief. Only three left, and that part of the bridge was getting crowded. One of the lizardmen turned and struck Jared. Robin parried another blow, which came within inches of her battered skin, and missed again with her spear. At least she had room to retreat now. Terzin fell back another two paces, hard pressed to defend himself. He took a chance, went on the offensive, and knocked his opponent flat. Robin, seeing a chance, fell back a few steps and kicked the thing off the bridge as it began to regain its feet. Harrick sent another thorn barrage at her remaining original attacker, wounding it. Jared swung and missed the other remaining lizardman, tried again. The lizardman went after Robin again. It was beginning to look unhappy about its situation, but it kept coming anyway.
Jared's relentless onslaught sent his enemy into the water. There was one left, which seemed to consider the odds and adopted a more defensively oriented posture. It didn't help; there were three of the intruders surrounding it now. Robin went for it, slipped on the wet stone, and almost went into the water. That was too close. The lizardman bolted. Terzin whipped out his knife and threw it. It missed. Harrick's thorn barrage did not. The lizard fell dead in the corridor.
Terzin retrieved his knife and dragged the corpse back, dumped it into the river. No sense leaving it lying around for potential comrades to stumble over. Then he shone the lantern into the falling water; there was definitely a space behind it. He set the lantern down and jumped through. He landed on flat, worked stone, in a space about ten feet by twenty. To the right, a corridor went off, sloping down a bit; he could see it turn a short distance away. There was a light source down there somewhere. He jumped back, then checked out the other side and found the same general setup, returned to tell the others what he had seen.
Ahead of them, beyond the bridge, was only a long expanse of corridor. They all made the trip through the waterfall on the right-hand side and went down the hall toward the light, looking for someplace less exposed to rest up after their battle.
The tunnel turned to the right. Jared was in the lead now; Robin was still feeling pretty shaky. The fisherman had a impressive bruise on his jaw, already turning black. The corridor met another in a T; to their left was the light source, a lantern burning on the floor where the lizardmen had left it, and a door nearby. To the right, the walls were damp; they'd come down far enough to be under the river. This corridor probably went around and eventually led to the alcove on the other side of the bridge.
Terzin inspected the door. An alcove opposite it held a collection of wooden fragments, as if someone had recently indulged in a lot of furniture-smashing. The door looked safe. He opened it cautiously. On the other side were the lizard-man barracks, empty. Nine beds, each with a small foot locker, and a stone altar on the north wall. On it was a green stone statue of a woman with a cobra head. They all went in and shut the door. Terzin went to work on the nearest foot locker in his usual single-minded fashion. Rags, cheap tunics, and fourteen pieces of gold with holes drilled through them, strung on a cord. The coins were very old and worn, not a currency he recognized. He looked through the other chests. All told, there were another twenty of the coins among the useless junk. They probably weren't worth a whole mark apiece, given their worn state, but it was gold.
The placed seemed as safe as anything they had seen so far; they settled in for an hour's rest and a halfway decent meal. Harrick did something to the food that seemed to give it extra restorative power; Robin and Terzin were soon feeling much betterthey were mostly suffering from bruisesand Jared slightly so, though it was obvious that the massive blow he'd taken was still affecting him somewhat.
So far, their adventure had gone pretty well, but none of them could be sure what lay ahead.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al