By Beth Griese
Date: March 28, 1998
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz Cut||Fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"It's the first throat-slitting to occur at knee level." -- Beth
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
Given our choice of possible dangers to tackle first in the icy caves that had yet to produce any of the drow we had been looking for, we decided to check out the loudest (closest?) enemies: the orcish- sounding voices that were babbling ahead of us. As we got closer, we decided that these may sound like orcs, but weren't: the voices were too deep, rumbled in chests too big, to be orcs. I was sure that was probably not a good sign.
We came to a curtain that hid the rest of the passageway, with the voices in conversation and what must have been tossed insults just beyond it. (Then again, in orcish languages, just about anything sounds like it's probably an insult.) Borreau and Verence both began casting spells to hit the orcish-whatevers with holy words, and at their signal, Telaran and I threw open the curtain and charged.
We faced ogres. Big, dirty brutes, and lots of them. Most of them had clubs, including one that I think crushed half my ribs when it hit my side. But we had a more immediate problem: Verence was yelling about ones in the back who had taken up rocks to throw at us. I shouldered past the group in front - the best idea I could come up with to prevent ogres in the back from flattening us with rocks was to give them a much more immediate target to flatten - myself in their faces with my sword in dagger. There were five of them with boulders, and just as I was beginning to think I couldn't dodge many more arms like trees crashing down at me, Telaran had done enough damage to the front group that Borreau was able to sprint through and join me in the back. I saw Lorivar charge past with a flying kick that would have been impressive if it had hit his target. Before any of us got further than that, though, our little gnome sent out a lightning bolt that made my hair stand on end even though I knew it was fake. The two ogres I was currently squared off against didn't have my advantage and suddenly, instead of dodging their arms, I was dodging their whole bodies as they both crashed to the ground. When I looked up from between the dust and ice crystals these two bodies threw into the air when fell around me, I realized the fight was over. But our only clue about which direction to head next was another set of voices, more human-sounding this time, down yet another passageway that we poked our noses into.
We didn't find a room this time, more like just a widening of the passageway. There were men here, not ogres, with a yellow cast to their tan skin and thin eyes, every one of them bald and wearing bright red robes. Our arrival, brandishing weapons like a giant metal porcupine, made them look nervous and bow cautiously. Lorivar stepped forward and spoke to them in the choppy, bubbling language they had been using (you discover something new about your traveling companions every day). Lorivar translated for us and said that they said this was a holy place.
We walked closer while Lorivar kept talking to them, but things got stranger and stranger. The priests refused to tell us what kind of holy place this was, or holy to who. They didn't even want us to see the alcove they had been tending. This set off alarm bells for all of us, and we pressed forward despite their protests, our main interest being what was in this alcove.
The moment we passed the corner, two things happened at once. First, I saw the statue, a huge orcish demon of death sitting with a chest in its lap. Second, I saw the blast of cold that shot from one of the monk's hands like one of Nory's lightning bolts, except that it threatened to freeze my leathers around me. Your magical ring that had kept me warm throughout these caverns helped protect me from the bitter wind that threw against us, but Telaran fell to the ground with the impact.
The fight was on. We swung at the clerics, Nory threw an illusion of raging fire down on them... and they took damage like normal people would, but the damage healed before our eyes as we tried to do more wounds, like bailing water out of a leaking boat. In fact, one of the ones put down for dead rose back up again. I pounded that one back down where he stood, and this time, when he fell, he changed. Into a huge ogrish thing with blue skin and oily white hair. Now we knew two things: what the things we fought actually looked like, and that they could be killed.
Their tricks weren't done yet, though. The "man" standing in front of me faded from view like a bank of fog dissipating in the sun. Nory must have cast something that would let him see the now- invisible ogre, though, because he started calling out directions and we all started swinging wildly. It's a wonder we didn't hit each other, we were all reacting so quickly. Lorivar was the first to finally score a hit, but then Nory called out that the last one had taken flight above us. I swung up with my dagger, again just hoping to get lucky. And this time, I did - my dagger hit solid flesh, and the last of the nasty blue creatures fell with a crash right in front of me.
We all jumped from side to side for a few more seconds until Nory finally remembered to tell us that we had cleared the last one out - his innocent surprise that we had lost track didn't convince me for a moment. We were alone with this statue they were worshipping and the chest it held. Nory headed for the statue with a club - an unusually direct approach for the gnome - but we stopped him with a lot more force than he said was necessary. Borreau used his spells to tell us that the chest was trapped.
Nory approached the statue a little more like a gnome usually would (to disarm its trap), but when he cautiously pried the chest open, a blast of ice and cold came from the statue's hand. While we tried to protect ourselves from the shattering cold, the statue changed into one more of those blue ogres. He never got far; as he stepped off the platform, he found my, Telaran, and Borreaus blades buried in him. Actually, Telaran and Borreaus weapons struck home in him; I took off an arm at the shoulder, which brought him spinning around in a small circle before he fell to the floor.
We finished opening the statue's chest without any more problems. Besides some magic and a healthy sum of coins, we found a scroll. Lorivar said the scroll was in the language that the monks had been using, but he was unable to actually read it. Nory deciphered the text, crudely, but enough for us to get the general idea. It was a letter to a clan leader, promising 100,000 gold pieces and more treasure for no less than the razing of Cormyr. No clue, though, of who had sent it (though I had my pet idea), or who this clan was that this message was headed for. We would have to be content with knowing the letter wouldn't reach its home, and with presenting it instead to the Cormyr rulership... as soon as we could find our way out of this place.
We followed another hallway, but were stopped short by a low, growling rumble ahead. Nory scampered ahead to check it out, under the cover of his invisibility spell. I shuffled from foot to foot while I tried to make out what was going on ahead by sound alone. I was listening so hard that I nearly fell over when the constant floor of rumbling fell out beneath me, followed by some wet sounds and some rustling. I looked at Borreau and Telaran with alarm - the only thing that didn't convince to charge right away was my confidence that the gnome wouldn't be able to die so quietly. It would never happen.
Instead, Nory slipped back down the hall looking like some beast from battle - he was covered in blood, and instead of his usual clothes was wrapped in a tattered piece of fur from some large animal. We finally worked the full story out of him - none of the blood was his, it belonged to a giant that was sleeping in the room beyond us. It was a giant like the one that had tried to flatten us by the entrance, and Nory had crept up on it and slit its throat before it had even disturbed its dreams. My stomach flipped at Nory's methods, but Nory didn't seem too impressed with the idea of waking up a mortal enemy in order to kill it, and looking at the gore-covered gnome, I couldn't bring up the stomach to argue about it now. Maybe the next time we're enjoying an ale at a safe tavern.
The giant had also been transporting a chest; this one frozen solid. Inside, besides another small pile of gold, was another scroll, this promising the Sultan of the Cloud Giants 300,000 gold pieces for the same deed that was being offered to the ogres. Whoever this attacker was, she (oh, all right, or he) was trying to catch Cormyr in a crossfire.
We must find our way out of this place. Every day lost is a day less that Cormyr can prepare its defense against whatever other letters have made it out of here. Tonight, though, we needed to rest to fight our way past whatever else might stand between us and an exit. Nory cast an amazing spell that put a dome over us like a giant bowl laid upside- down over us. We could see out of the bowl, but Nory said no one else could see in, and the inside was as warm as a fire-lit hut. We rest in the best peace we can ask for in this hostile place. I'll write again after we have broken camp in the morning.
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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