Valin looked at the elf seated across the room from him. Armored and armed with scimitars, the elf was beginning to wake up. Like him, the elf was seated upon the stone floor and leaned with his back to the wall.
Only fifteen feet separated the two dungeoneers.
Valin’s instincts were warning him, but his limbs were not responding fast enough.
The elf wrapped his hands around the hilt of his scimitars and slowly began to stand. Valin, his muscles fighting his will to stand, managed to do so using his warhammer as a make-shift cane.
“I have no quarrel with you,” the elf said as he brushed back his long hair to reveal a face with aquiline features. Even Valin, a dwarf who knew no love for the race of elves, noticed an air of confidence about the elf.
“And I have none with you,” Valin said.
“I’m glad we resolved that potential misunderstanding,” the elf said with a touch of sarcasm. “My name is Talaer Greydawn, a tracker in Her Majesty’s service. Do you know what or where this place is? How I got here is not clear to me. As a recall, I and another ranger were investigating a secret underground passage we found in the woods along the kingdom’s northeast border. I do not remember much more beyond that.”
“And I am Valin.” The dwarf looked around the room. Four torches in sconces lit the room brightly. Against one wall stood a statue of a white-robed bearded human man with arms outstretched in greeting. He also noted three passages leading out of the room—perhaps to the south. For some strange reason, he was finding it difficult to judge the cardinal directions and depth while in the room. He wondered if some ritual had been placed in the room that prevented him from using his natural dwarven instincts. “I’m not sure, but this place looks different from the last place I—.”
Talaer quickly put his finger to his lips to signal the dwarf to be quiet. From somewhere nearby, the elven ranger heard what sounded like someone dropping a pebble or small rock on the stone floor. He turned his head in the direction where he heard the sound come from. For several seconds, he kept still and signaled for the dwarf to do the same.
Talaer cautiously moved towards one of the passages and peered around the corner. A room, cloaked in dim light, lay beyond. He suspected someone—or something may be nearby—so he was ready for anything. Immediately, he noticed a short figure hiding in the shadows a short distance away. What appeared to be a sling was being spun in the figure’s hand.
The ranger charged into the room.
He was met by a halfling dressed in leather armor. An adventurer’s pack hung from his back while a sling was clearly visible in his hand. A dagger was also sheathed at the slinger’s waist. The halfling quickly spun his sling and let loose a bullet that zipped past Talaer striking the wall somewhere behind him.
Suddenly, two more halflings equally dressed and armed rushed into the room from a nearby exit. One of them quickly climbed down a short four-foot wall that offered a view of a large hallway beyond. The hallway was lit by a large square “well”, its water glowing a bright teal.
Two more bullets shot past Talaer.
Talaer prevented the halflings from using their slings by moving into their midst, purposely surrounding himself. As he moved past two of them, they tried to hit him with their slings using them as makeshift saps. He easily dodged the attacks while striking one just under his arm.
Their slings useless in close quarters, the halflings dropped their slings and drew out their daggers. One stabbed at the ranger who easily sidestepped the feeble attack. Another quickly followed barely missing Talaer’s leg.
Talaer, still surprised that halflings whose kind were not commonly known to be so violent, swung his scimitar in a wide arc that sliced through leather and flesh. The halfling screamed in pain but survived the attack. Talaer then turned on his heel, spinning to strike at another halfling.
Valin meanwhile had heard the sounds of battle and rushed in after Talaer. He moved up to the nearest halfling whose chest was covered in blood and brought his warhammer down with a sickening crunch to the halfling’s head. The halfling dropped to the floor lifeless.
Another dagger thrust forced the ranger to step back. Talaer turned his own blade sideways, slapping the halfling’s arm away. He followed up with an upward slice that all but took the halfling’s arm off. The halfling fell to the floor screaming in agony. He writhed for a few seconds then died.
The ranger turned to the remaining halfling. “Put down your weapon!” he commanded.
The halfling took a careful step back.
“I’d listen to the elf,” Valin said. For added emphasis, the dwarf pointed his warhammer at the halfling whose eyes grew wide at the sight of his former companion’s blood, skull fragments, and brain matter still stuck to the dwarf’s weapon.
“You two must have the key,” the halfling half-whispered through clenched teeth. “The voice said you two would get me the key.”
“You should put that dagger away,” Talaer said. “Maybe we can help each other escape this place. What else did the voice tell you?”
“I don’t need your help!” the halfling yelled back. “I’ll find my own way out of here.”
“Suit yourself,” Talaer said with finality. He lowered his blade and waved the halfling to leave.
The halfling then turned around and quickly disappeared from view around a few corners and passageways.
“I’m sure we’ll be running into that one soon enough,” Valin pointed out.
“So where exactly are we?” Talaer asked as he began rummaging through the halfling’s accoutrements.
“I don’t know,” Valin said as he searched the other dead halfling for anything useful. He held up a sun rod he found. He then placed it in his own backpack. “I woke up in this cursed dungeon with very little memory of where I hail from. I know my name, my profession and skills, but not much else.”
“So, we’re in some dungeon—Larethian knows where—brought here against our will. For what reason?”
Valin dropped the halfling’s backpack on the floor. “That’s what we need to find out.”
“May as well search this place then.” Talaer said. He fixed his backpack and with scimitars in his hands, left the room for the hallway he saw earlier.
The hallway they stood in was fairly wide. Two wells with glowing water sat in the middle of the hallway. At the far end of the hallway, they saw the small body of the halfling encountered earlier. The halfling was lying facedown on the floor. “Told you we’d run into that halfling soon enough,” Valin remarked.
They also spotted a shimmering curtain of blue blocking the entryway into a small room. Inside the room, they saw a large golden key sitting on a pile of wooden debris. When Talaer touched the shimmering curtain with his scimitar, he felt a wave of force vibrate uncomfortably through his arm. Valin, meanwhile, tossed the body of a halfling he had dragged from the other room straight at the wall of force. The body bounced off like a rag doll.
To test the well and its glowing water, Talaer then dunked the halfling’s body in it. Nothing happened so they deemed the water safe…for the moment.
As one they both suddenly turned in the direction of a sound that was familiar to the dwarven battlemind. They heard a buzzing sound grow louder with each passing second.
“I know that sound,” Valin said as he gripped his warhammer tighter. “Ready yourself!”
From the end of the hallway, the two spotted three small creatures fly into view. About the size of housecats, each had two sets of bat-like wings and four wicked claws ending in pincers. Each also had a nightmarishly long proboscis protruding out of their heads.
With a loud buzz each one flew straight for the two dungeoneers. Valin easily batted one that threatened to stab him right in the neck. Another one however clawed into his leg. He felt a sharp pain as it drove its dagger-like proboscis into his leg. “Damn these wretched mosquitoes!” the dwarf bellowed in half rage and half pain.
“They’re not mosquitoes,” Talaer corrected. "They’re commonly known as stirges, bloodthirsty beasts that can clamp onto their victims and drain their blood. We’re lucky there’s only three of them. Usually they travel in “storms” of fourteen or more."
One flew at the elf. Talaer tried to swat it with his scimitar but managed to only anger it. It’s buzzing grew louder as it weaved to the right then drove its proboscis into the elf’s arm. He let loose a cry of pain that caused the dwarf to laugh despite his injury.
“Feeling lucky now?” Valin asked sarcastically.
The dwarven Battlemind then took a deep breath and began focusing his thoughts. He cleared his mind of everything and looked at the stirge attached to his leg. As a Battlemind, he was a warrior of thought and action, able to fight any foe with the combat skill of a fighter. But it was his mind that served as his ultimate weapon and armor. With his psionic abilities, Valin could tear through an opponent’s mind channeling his pain into counterstrikes that could leave even the strongest enemy reeling.
The stirge suddenly felt a mental command that had to be followed. It pulled its proboscis out of Valin’s leg which caused the dwarf to let out a grunt of pain. It then let go of the dwarf’s leg and flew at the other stirge buzzing around him and attacked it. The other stirge however was quick and darted out of range buzzing angrily at its mate.
Talaer meanwhile felt a new surge of pain as he felt the stirge attached to his arm suck out what felt like all the blood that his body had. Grunting in pain, he wedged his scimitar between the stirge and his arm tearing the thing off of him. It nearly fell to the floor but flapped its leathery wings and came at him again.
Nearby, Valin took advantage of the two stirge fighting each other. He swung his warhammer and connected with the stirge he just mentally commanded to attack the other stirge. It crumpled to the floor, dead. The other tried to attack the dwarf and missed, unable to find an opening in the dwarf’s scaled armor. The dwarf quickly followed with his warhammer sending it hurtling against a nearby wall where it exploded on impact.
The elven ranger dodged the stirge’s attack. He quickly sliced at the creature hovering in front of his face, cleaving it in half. Blood—some of it his own—sprayed outward from the stirge and covered Talaer.
The two dungeoneers were tired but considered themselves fortunate to have survived the stirges’ attacks.
“Three was enough,” Talaer said. "I hope I never encounter a “storm” of those things."
“I’ll agree to that.” Valin said.
For the next several minutes, Talaer bandaged his wounds while Valin searched for a possible secret entrance to the room with the key. He examined the halfling’s body. As he suspected, the halfling had been attacked by the stirges judging by the number of stab wounds he saw. He took a dagger and what provisions he could from the halfling’s backpack.
Valine looked around. Despite the light from the glowing water nearby, most of the hallway was cloaked in shadowy darkness. Not wanting to waste a sun rod, Valin walked back to the room he appeared in and examined one of the torches. He found that it gave ample light but emitted no heat. Valin took it off the sconce and held on to it.
In the other room where they fought the halfling, Talaer had just finished lighting a small fire on the floor using some pieces of wood he found nearby, when he heard something scrape the floor behind him. Turning to look over his shoulder, he spotted three small scaly humanoids with hairless hides, reptilian heads, and tails. Not more than three feet in height each wore leather armor and held small wooden shields. All were armed with short swords, which at the moment were all pointing at the elf.
One of the humanoids yelled what sounded like a command and they quickly charged at the elf who recognized them as Kobolds.
The first kobold took a swing at the elf, cutting him. Talaer winced in pain, angry that he had just finished binding his wounds from the stirge encounter only to be injured by these wretched creatures. He parried an attack by a second kobold and followed it up with a deep cut to the kobold’s arm. It howled in pain but kept on fighting. It yelled something that sounded like an obscenity at the elf; spoken in Draconic Talaer didn’t doubt. He knew some basic facts about the strange humanoids, but he didn’t speak their language.
Hearing the battle from the other room, Valin entered the room to find himself facing a small creature that tried to stab him with a short sword. The blade glanced harmlessly off his scale armor. He noted two others who were deftly circling the elven ranger in the middle of the room, trying to flank Talaer on either side.
“If I should fall in battle, there are healing potions in my backpack,” Talaer said to the dwarf. “I found them in a secret compartment in the statue back in the room where we woke up.”
“Good to know!” The kobold flanking Talaer said excitedly in the Common tongue. “You hear that fellas? We have potions in case we need it.”
Both Valin and Talaer exchange surprised glances as the kobolds all squealed with delight.
“Did you know they spoke Common?” Valin asked.
“I did not,” Talaer replied.
A sharp pain tore through the elf as the kobold behind him stabbed him from behind. Ignoring it for a brief moment, Talaer stepped up to the kobold he had injured earlier and swung his scimitar straight at the humanoid’s neck.
The kobold’s body slumped to the ground just as it head rolled to a stop several feet away.
Meanwhile, Valin parried another attack. In response, he swung his warhammer in a wide arc that crushed the kobold’s head on impact.
Looking towards where the elf was fighting, Valin noted how the remaining kobold was carefully weaving in and out of the elf’s sword range. Just as it ducked under Talaer’s scimitar, it stabbed upward. Its short sword cutting into Talaer’s ribs, puncturing his lungs.
Coughing up blood, the elf crumbled to the floor.
With a yell Valin charged at the remaining kobold. It tried in vain to block the dwarf’s warhammer with its shield, but the dwarf easily knocked it to the side. Turning the warhammer back, he brought it down on the kobold’s shoulder, crushing bones as he knocked the kobold down to the ground.
Remembering what the elf had told him, Valin quickly searched the elf’s backpack.
“I thought I was dead there for a while,” Talaer said a short while later. The two had just finished searching the remains of the kobolds. Save for a few personal items, they didn’t find anything of value.
“You almost were,” Valin said. “If you didn’t tell me about the potions, my healing skills probably couldn’t have saved you. By the way, I noticed that the wall of force leading to the room with the key is gone.”
“How did you manage to disable it?”
“I didn’t. It disappeared soon after the last of those small humanoids was slain.”
“They’re known as Kobolds.”
“Well, whatever they are, it seems their death caused the wall to drop.”
“Good enough then,” Talaer said. Gathering his equipment, he and Valin walked back to the hallways where they encountered the stirges. After making sure the area was safe, they proceeded to enter the room with the key.
Inside the small room, they found two bronze statues at opposite ends of the room. Both had broken off their bases and were leaning against the wall. Strangely, one statue was that of a dwarf holding a warhammer in its hand. The other statue was that of an elf. It held a scimitar in its hand.
Valin, wary of traps, carefully removed the warhammer from the statue’s hand. After inspecting it for a several minutes, he determined that it was enchanted with the ability to siphon life from whomever it struck and heal its wielder. Talaer, after examining the scimitar he found, also found it to be similarly enchanted.
With enchanted weapons in their hands, both dungeoneers looked at the key lying on top of a pile of wooden debris.
“What do you think this key opens?” Valin asked as he picked it up.
“There’s only one way to—,” Talaer started to say.
In a blinding, brilliant flash of light both dungeoneers vanished—along with the key.
To be continued in future Dungeon Games writeups.