Out of the Frying Pan and into the Freezer
It was a clear, dark night. A small rodent popped its head out of a tunnel entrance. It sniffed the air. It was cold; there would soon be snow. The little creature decided that it had enough time to forage and scurried off across the broken ground. It spotted a juicy plant and began to dig furiously at the roots. It stopped its excavations suddenly. Again it sniffed the air. Something was wrong. It waited in anticipation. Then a low whine came from the darkness, gradually getting louder and louder. The air sparked and crackled. An unnatural wind began to blow. An eerie glow flickered and grew in intensity. Then, in a final eruption of elemental energy, a portal appeared. The hungry animal fled back to the safety of its burrow in a panic. The food could wait.
The Gethyanki ship emerged from the astral plane and the adventurers disembarked, bidding farewell to their rescuers. They realised that the temperature was a degree or two cooler than in the crater. They had been left in the midst of the northern tundra on a cold night. A blizzard just happened to be blowing at full strength. "Marvellous!” they thought. Finding only meagre shelter they made themselves as comfortable as they could, which wasn’t very. They tried to talk but the howling gale snatched their words and whisked them away into the darkness. Each was left alone with his own thoughts on the chaos they had just witnessed. Zaen felt a combination of relief and shock. Both Goll and Gul were still recovering from the horror. Nsaar was gradually regaining his confidence and becoming more like his previous self. At last he was free from the threat that had hung over his head for these past months. Brun and Gorlab merely stared ahead, giving nothing away as to their thoughts. Thus they spent their first night back in The Valley of the Great Sword.
The new morning dawned cold but bright. They ate breakfast, such as it was, and discussed their plans. "The only way is south,” said Gul. "It is the way to Tradetown and familiar territory, and it will be warmer.” He laughed.
Brun cautioned them, "There are also dwarves to the south. We must be careful when we reach their lands. Your kind is not exactly welcome in that neighbourhood.”
"We can deal with a few dwarves,” snarled Zaen.
"There are orcs, too. We may get a better reception in their territory,” said Gorlab.
They broke camp and marched southwards. As they marched they kept their spirits up with some verbal sparring.
"I wonder if we’ll meet any spiders.” Said Goll.
"Don’t be stupid,” retorted Brun, "they can’t survive in these temperatures.”
After a few more minutes walking a block of ice rose up before them and a snow spider emerged from its den. "Who’s feeling stupid now, cleric?” scoffed Goll. The party prepared to attack the monster. Goll threw a fireball and the creature screamed in pain. Zaen strengthened himself with magic and Brun blessed the party. Nsaar loosed an arrow, but missed. As one, the party then charged at the beast and began to rain down blows on it. Gorlab was the first in to the attack, but missed his mark and the spider swallowed his sword. A brief but vicious skirmish followed with Goll landing the killing blow.
"Let’s cut it up for food,” said Gorlab. "Cut its stomach and see what we find,” this from Goll. As the party argued over the best way to deal with the remains, Gul set the thing on fire as a sacrifice to Vhaeraun. "I hate spiders, I hate spiders.” He danced around the burning corpse manically, screaming. It took his comrades several minutes to calm him down. Then they continued their journey south without further problems.
So it continued for the next two days until they reached the banks of a river. It was too wide and cold to risk swimming and there was no sign of a ferry or other means of crossing. Gorlab and Brun came up with the idea of two people flying across dragging two others, each with ‘Featherfall’ cast on them. This was deemed an excellent plan, but it meant they had to wait for another day in order to replenish their manna. They had yet to completely recover from the eclipse of a few days previous. The time was spent in idle reflection or other pastimes. Zaen and Nsaar decided to try their hands at fishing, but all they succeeded in attracting was a pack of wolves, about six in number. The two Drow headed back to camp, pursued by the hungry wolves. The animals were willing to follow two preys, but when they saw more at the river they decided discretion was the better part of valour and retreated. "Damn them,” cursed Zaen, "I was looking forward to a fight.”
On the next day they crossed the river, with Goll and Gul doing the flying and the rest being dragged by whatever they could grab hold of, but we won’t go into that in too much detail. Temperatures were getting markedly warmer and the going became easier. "We must be approaching Orcish or Dwarven territory by now” said Gul.
"Yes, we must be more careful from this point,” agreed Brun.
As they pressed on they became aware of something approaching from their rear. They looked around and saw that four harpies were flying towards them. In time honoured fashion they prepared themselves. Spells were prepared by those who had enough manna and swords were drawn by the rest. Goll put all the harpies to sleep in an impressive use of magic and the others ran to gain easy kills. The first to get to the sleeping monsters were Brun, Nsaar and Gorlab who hacked them to pieces. Then the party set about plucking the dead harpies. "Harpy feathers are valuable, grab as many as you can,” shouted Goll. When they were well and truly plucked the party set off again.
When next they camped Gul stood before his companions and made a short speech:
"I have decided, now that we have two ships, and in the sure knowledge we will acquire more, to make myself a general. Do I hear cries of ‘Hurrah?’ Apparently not, but no matter. This means there exist two vacancies for captain. Gorlab and Brun will be the two captains of our little fleet. In order to give you some experience Gorlab will take command for the rest of our journey. Thank you for your continued support, and ‘Up the Revolution!’”.
There followed a heated debate between Gorlab, Brun and Gul as to how best to proceed through Dwarven lands. It was decided to keep to broken ground where they could take advantage of cover. It was true this would be slower, but preferable to travelling in the open where they would be more easily spotted. Thus they continued their way home.
It was the eighth day of their journey and they were well into Dwarven territory when they were surprised by a patrol of some twenty dwarves armed with crossbows and battle axes. The Drow were expecting a hard fight with these tough little fellows but Zaen fried them all with a single well aimed fireball. A search of the bodies revealed 1300GP, giving each of them 200GP each. Gorlab claimed the last 100GP as commander. Gul regretted his decision already.
They continued on their way for another day until they reached the road to Tradetown and the going became considerably easier. Despite the easier travelling they were still plagued by marauding beasts and were attacked by seven gryphons. As they approached Brun blessed the group. Gul fired two lightning bolts and killed one of the creatures as they flew towards the party. Another fell to Nsaar’s magic missiles. Zaen used his magic to strengthen himself as the gryphons closed for melee. Goll cast haste on the party and Brun made his weapon stronger using his clerical powers. Then it was swords versus teeth and claws. Goll claimed the first kill as the flying creatures clashed with the adventurers. Brun dealt with another of the gryphons and Zaen killed one which should have been Gul’s. Gul was not to be deprived of another kill and robbed Nsaar of his victory. Gorlab was fighting against another of the attackers and nearly had it but Goll stepped in and stole his prize.
Their destination was within a day’s march, now and they trudged on with growing confidence. Surely they could make it without further mishap. As the day drew to a close they made camp and settled down for the night. Goll and Zaen took the first watch. The two Drow looked forward to a quiet few hours and were engaged in idle chatter when they were surprised by wolves or some such beasts.
Three of the creatures were upon Goll in an instant and he valiantly began to defend himself. He soon realised they were werewolves. Zaen rushed to his aid with a cry of "Werewolves, wake up the rest of you, we’re under attack.” Gul was the first on his feet and quickly engaged one of Goll’s attackers, felling it in short order. Gorlab, lacking a weapon strong enough to hurt the beasts, grabbed an ember from the fire. He stumbled and one of the creatures tried to bite him, but missed. He laughed at the werewolf and struck it with his brand, and another enemy fell. Brun unleashed his cobra. Zaen also grabbed burning log from the fire and attacked another lycanthrope but donned his wraith mask and summoned the wraith. It, too, closed with the same werewolf and sent it fleeing for safety. Gul claimed his second victim which left only one beast standing. All but Goll and Gul were attacking the last wolf standing and Brun killed this beast. The rest of the night passed without incident.
The following day the party set off for Tradetown. As they made their way along the road they met an Endorran merchant and his guards. The two parties eyed each other warily. Gul addressed the merchant. "Hail, good merchant, where are you headed and what do you carry.”
The merchant replied in a worried tone "We are off to dwarven lands with nothing that would interest a Drow; though I do have one thing that may be of interest.”
"And what is that?” asked Gul.
The merchant fumbled nervously under the seat of his wagon. Eventually he held up a pair of goggles. "Ah, here they are” he said with relief.
"These are yours for 1000GP.” He handed them to Gul who tested them for magical properties. They turned out to be ‘Goggles of Read Language’.
"Excellent”, said Gul. "Would you accept 800GP for cash on the nail?” He turned to Brun, "Can you lend me 800GP? I’ll reimburse you when we reach Tradetown.”
"Certainly, General” replied Brun, emphasising the new rank. "Just remember where you got the money.”
The merchant thought the offer over and agreed, best not to haggle with a bunch of Drow. Anyway, they only cost 500GP. Both parties left satisfied.
Gul took out the communication globe when they were within three miles of Tradetown and contacted his brother. They agreed a rendezvous point. The two ships were there to meet them with Joruus on board. They were back in Tradetown at last.