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Amrathi

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This one is not finished yet, but I will keep posting as I get more done.


Tense.

That is the best word to describe the small group. All of them filled with the tension of waiting.

She should have been here an hur ago. Slow, nervous glances passed between the group, eashlooking to the others for reassurances. Was she dead? Captured? Or worse, had she betrayed them?

"She WILL be here!" The speakers dark gaze moved slowly from dwarf, to elf, to another dwarf, and finally to the barbarian.

"So you say!" B'ior, the dwarf, spoke up, "But how can you be sure?"

The speaker calmly gazed at the dwarf, and said, "Because she will either be here, or be dead. Alnara had never dissappointed me before. She won't now.:

The barbarian got up and stalked to the mouth of the cave they were sheltered in. Carefully peeking outside, he saw nothing but the rocky slopes leadin down to the desert beyond. "She approached not."

Daemar jumped as a small voice behind him said "Of course I don't!"

Before his companions could finish drawing their weapons, Daemar said "Relax! 'Tis Alnara!"and then to the voice, "You know I hate it when you do that, 'Nara!"

As she faded into view, Alnara responded "As I hate it when you call me that! Tell me, Daemar, are your new friends always so..." Alnara fumbled for the proper word in the common tongue "...uptight?"

Daemar chuckled, "Not always, just when certain people are late."

"Ah! Couldn't be helped! You see, I ran into some old friends on the way, and had to avoid them..."

"Not Droga again..."

"Aye, the one and evil only."

"And?"

"Let's just say they THINK they are still chasing me."

"Ahh, where are you leading them?"

With a sigh, Alnara replied, "I haven't quite decided yet. Tyrinax still in the clefts?"

Daemar snorted in amusement as he answered "You think they'll follow your illusion all the was into the dragon's lair?!?"

"One can only hope, old friend..." Alnara chuckled.

At that, the others could't resist anymore. After looking around at each other in comfusion, Hogarth asked "Wait! How are you leading anyone anywhere? And why would you lead a friend into a dragon's lair?"

Chuckling, Alnara replied, "Well, to be precise, they are following an illusion of me, and they are more like enemies, than friends! But enough of me. I need to know about you! What are your stories? What brings you here, needin' our help?"

As he came back to the campfire, Unak said, "Well, I came from the far frozen north, leaving my clan, to fulfill a vision quest."

"A vision quest? I'm not familiar with that. Please expalin to me..." Alnara looked puzzled.

"Every barbarian must undertake the vision quest upon reaching their 20th season. It is on this quest that our life's path it revealed to us. Often, we find that our path leads away from what we envisioned as a child. Sometimes, we never return. Always, it is as the Great Spirit intends. My quest led me here. I was wandering the boulders below when your friendfound me. I took it as a sign from the Great Spirit, so I travel with you."

Elnara glanced at Daemar, who shrugged his shoulders and grinned as his only answer.

"And you, my elven friend? What brought you to us?"

"Ela'L'Uri brought me. She told me I would be needed in the human city of Briarwood. Of course, I set out immediately. Along the way, I met Hogarth and B'ior here. They happpened to be in need of my services, and we have been together since. They have agreed to travel with me. We met your friend Daemar while my companions were indulging their legendary love of ale."

"And that leads us to you two dwarves. What is your stories?"

"Well, ya see, it's really all his fault! Hogarth got a bit tipsy, and when he couldn't pay his tab, he decided to nip a coin or two from a patron's purse. Well, let's just say a drunken thief isn't very subtle, and when the singing was done, he an d I were the only people standing..."

"Aye, and whose fault was that, B'ior? If ye had stayed outta it, I would have escaped!"

"Bah! You could barely stand, lad!"

"Yea, but when I sobered up, I would have escaped the cell!"

""You would have found it hard to escape with no hands!"

"Enough! I've heard this fight before, and if you want our help, I'll not hear it again!" Daemar turned to Alnara and said, "They barely escaped from Dumoine alive."

Ela'ri spoke up, "Well, now you have our stories. What is yours? Why would you help us?"

Alnara looked again to the elf, and replied, "Why indeed... You're probably going to get me killed on this foolish mission, but I grow bored in Duskwood Vale, so I travel. Daemar here has contacted me, and assured me that this will be an interesting journey. So, I suppose the answer to your question is... Why not?"

Not terribly reassured, the four companions looked rather tanse...

And, when it finally sank in what B'ior had said, Alnara looked at him with a confused look on her face. "Singing?




CHAPTER 2


Her whiskers lifted in what could only be called a grin, as she let her invisibility fall. A soft chuckle escaped her lips.

Watching the six companions thread their way along the rocky slope, she reached into one of the many small pouches hanging from her belt, and withdrew a small piece of parchment. The barely spoken words, little more than breath to begin with, seemed to dissappear into the parchment as she held it in front of her mouth. Then , with a sharp exhale, the scroll dissolved into multi-colored sparked rushing away from her extended fingers...


CHAPTER 3


Something fell and hit his toe with an annoying "thwack!: sound. Opening his eyes with a groan, he let his gaze fall to his feet, which were propped up on his desk, knowing in advance what he would find.

Only one thing made that particular sound.

Sure enough, sitting on the tip of is overrsized oot Gibak saw the tightly wond scroll of a sending. Often telling f bad newws, a sending ALWAYS meant more work for him. WITH a ig, he unfolde his hands frm behind his head, nd lowered the chairs front legs to he floor. Without moving his feet, he reaced down and plucked h scrl from the toe of his boot. Satisfied now that he scroll was not going to fall, he moved his feet to the floor, saying "So much for THAT nap..."


Untieing the red ribbon, which signified that the sending was for him, he read he small scroll:

Gibak,

I found the halfling and the elf. In pursuit. Waiting for a chance to capture them. Get the cells ready.

And tell the Overlord his trust was well placed. I shall collect my reward soon.

Shal.

Damn!

Why did SHE find them?

HOW did she find them? Was not Droga already close to capturing them? Or at least the halfling?

What had happened to Droga?

Come to think of it, why hadn't Droga checked in recently?

Standing so quickly that his chair flip[ped backwards, loudly bouncing alond the stone floor, the half-ogre angrily stamped his way over to the iron-wood cabinet beside his desk. Fumbling with his keyring for a moment, he muttered "I HATE having to use these thing..." and, finding the key he needed, removed the padlock from the cabinet. "Why did it have to be HER that made them..." he muttered as he opened the door. "It could have been ANY Rakshasa, but NOOOOOO..."

Gibak reached his hand into the cabinet and pulled out a small box. Leaving the cabinet open, he returned to the desk and carefully placed the box on the desk. The next key on the ring opened the box. Upon opening the lid, the room was suddenly bathed in an eerie blue glow. reaching in, Gibak chose one of the six crystal globes inside, and closed the box.

With a sigh, Gibak placed the globe on the desk, plopped down in his chair, and began to concentrate on the scrying device. Slowly, a scene began to form around Gibak...


CHAPTER 4


Droga and his two companions could still see her. As of yet, Alnara gave no indication that she knew they were following her. But where was the elf?

Still climbing, the nimble little halfling didn't so much as dislodge a pebble. Soon, she ducked into a cave on the side of the cliff.

"Ahh, we have her now!" Droga chuckled softly, as he climbed the last few feet, and stepped into the darkness of the cave mouth. Seeing the halfling disappear around a corner, the three umans hurried to follow.

Turning the corner, they found themselfs in a cavern. Towards the far end, Alnara was talking quietly to an elf wearing red robes. Beru whispered, "Is that Daemar? When did he take the red robes?"

Droga shook his head. "No, not Daemar. I know not this elf..."

While they watched, Alnara lit a torch, and placed it in a sconce nearby, then returned to the mysterious elf. In a louder voice, so the humans could hear, Alnara announced, "Ah! They are here!" and suddenly the entrance behind the humans got dark. Whirling around, Droga saw that the cave mouth seemed to be gone! Alnara said, "Thank you, 'Nax! I must go now..." and faded away, as if she had never been there...

Turning to face the humans now, 'Nox grinned, and in a booming voice, said simply, "Welcome to the lair of Tyrinax!"

'Nax's form seemed to shimmer and stretch, flexing and growing as it did so. Before the trie could react, they were staring at a red dragon which filled the cavern, instead of an elf! The huge head snapped forward, and with a gulp, swallowed Beru whole. Droga broke and ran. Rogar was next, Tyrinax making quick work of him, snapping him up and swallowing him.

Droga, meanwhile, was desperately searching for an exit. Unfortunately for him, the opening was still sealed. He turned, desperately hoping the dragon would not follow.

Tyrinax walked slowly, menacingly, toward Droga. As Droga tried to hide in the cracks of the stone wall, 'Nax inhaled deeply. Droga pulled a dagger, and threw it for the dragons eye, hoping against hope for a lucky shot. AS the dagger clattered uselessly off the dragon's scales, Droga screamed, and Tyrinax let loose with a burst of fire, roasting Droga to a crisp...

As the glow of the fire dimmed, the only light in the cavern was the torch. Again in the form of an elf, Tyrinax slowly walked over and snuffed out the torch.


CHAPTER 5 MISSING... Coming soon!


Gibak's roar of rage echoed eerily through the castle, followed by the sound of breaking crystal. Droga had been Gibak's oldest friend. As close to a brother as he had ever had.

Tyrinax would die, but not before Alnara!!!

Chapter 6

"Careful. You do NOT want to anger the Gringaashi! Mind your step..."

Hogarth looked at the elf, and asked, "What? What are the Gringaashi? And what does where I step have to do with it?"

Daemar grinned, and answered, "The Gringaashi, good dwarf, are the creatures that live within the sand. They are the little cousins to the dragons, but without wings, and they can feel it if you step upon the sand. And they are jealous of their territory."

"Legend tells that a great and powerful mage once ruled these lands. He was the father of the black robed mages, the Necromancers, and the most powerful and brilliant mage ever to don a robe. He had a passion for experimenting with creatures. Any creatures. ALL creatures. He sought to improve upon them." The companions had grown very quiet, listening intently to Daemar's tale, as they carefully picked their way north through the boulder-strewn hills. "Legend does NOT say how, but he came into possession of a clutch of dragon eggs, perhaps by killing the mother. How he managed this is not important to this tale, however.

"Of course, legend does not go into detail as to how he went about it, but Rathmam twisted these noble beasts into something new, something different. Something horrible.

"Something powerful. More powerful than even Rathmam. When these eggs hatched, the babies resembled dragons still, but they were a tan in color, not red, and they had strange powers which normal dragons did not. Instead of spewing fire, these creatures spewed sand. And worse yet, they could then CONTROL that sand, making sand storms fierce enough to flay your skin from your bones.

"Rathmam thought he had created the ultimate servant and weapon. However, as the Gringaashi grew, as is always the case, so grew their hunger, as well as their power. Rathmam, not realizing the danger inherent in this, allowed them to live. Unfortunately, the Gringaashi inherited all of the malevolence of the red dragons, but almost none of their intellect.

"Rathmam, in his arrogance, still thought he could control these beasts. He could not."

"Rathmam's castle used to lay there." Daemar pointed his robed arm east, deep into the desert, pointing to a barely visible, solitary mountain of rubble in the heart of the desert. "All that is left is that pile of stone. This desert used to be lush grassland, farms, and prairies. There used to be villages. After slaying Rathmam, the Gringaashi rampaged through the area, killing and destroying, until they reached these mountains. Due to their inferior intellect, they could not find passage through the mountains, so they remain here.

"The sand is the relic of their destruction, as well as their home. They wait, buried, perhaps tunneling through the sands, making prey of anyone careless, or foolish, enough to step out onto the sand."

The small band of travellers walked quietly for a time, contemplating the tale they had just heard. Finally, Unak broke the silence, saying, "There IS a way past the sands. Aurox, for whom the bay is named, charted it. The journey took three days by sea before any green was apparent."

The rest of the afternoon passed in silence as the party threaded their way through the boulders.




Chapter 7

Nightfall found the group making camp high in the foothills, still surrounded by boulders. With a sudden glance and a frown, Daemar excused himself, saying, "I'll just be a moment. I thought I heard something..." and walked off, ducking behind some boulders.

"What's with him?" Ela'ri asked. "I heard nothing."

"I'm sure it's nothing." Alnara replied, though her face told a different story...



Chapter 8


Daemar, with a glance behind him to make sure he was not observed, ducked behind a large boulder. In a quiet voice, he said, "Come."

A small figure slowly shimmered into view. It stood only two feet tall, and was dressed in ragged black robes which were faded to a dingy gray. It's robe's hood was pulled over it's head in a way which hid its face, it's sleeves overhung it's hands, and it's hem swept the ground. Last to appear were the eyes. While they were the only facial features visible, they were red, glowing pinpricks, and they were enough.

"Report."

When it spoke, it's voice was horrid to hear. While only a whisper, it evoked metal screeching on metal, mixed with wind over an open grave. "It sees. It FOLLOWS!"

"What does?"

"Rakshasa! RUN!!!"

Chapter 9

"We're leaving. Now!" "What? Why?" ALnara asked, surprised. "Rakshasa, thats why." "I say we stand and fight!" B'ior growled. Daemar, glaring at the dwarf, stated, "It's your life. Throw it away if you wish. As for 'Nara and I, we're leaving. Anybody who wishes to live will come with us!" With that, Daemar approached Alnara, quietly asking, "Can you give us a diversion? Maybe lead the Rakshasa away, like you did Droga?" With a sigh, Alnara replied, "I can try. I seriously doubt a Rakshasa would be fooled by an illusion, though..." "Well, I'm open for suggestions... Damn! Why would a Rakshasa be after us?" "Another old friend?" "No! I've heard of a few working for the Overlord, but thought they were only rumours!" "Apparently not. And if we have one after us, apparently your old boss is REALLY serious now..."


Chapter 10

They quickly broke camp, Daemar packing Alnara's bedroll while she prepared her best programmed illusion, hoping the Rakshasa would believe the group had decided to stay in the camp. When Daemar finished packing, he cast a simple enchantment on each member of the group, allowing them to leave no more trace of their passing than a ghost would. That done, Alnara case a group invisibility spell, and they set off as quickly, and quietly, as possible. A screeching whisper sounded, saying, "She comes. Run! Run fast! I will hold her when she comes!" Daemar whispered in answer, "Die well, Athmir! I will summon you again. Be ready to answer my call!" And louder, to the group, "We must move faster. It comes!"


Chapter 11

She smiled when she saw the group sitting around the campfire, and emitted a low rumble. After a moment of savoring her upcoming victory, the cat-like bounty hunter began to advance upon her prey, when a sudden blast of searing heat threw her to the ground, still smoldering. As she scanned her surroundings for her opponent, she moved for the cover of a boulder, staying as low as possible. Another ball of flame struck her in the shoulder, sending her tumbling behind the boulder, and leaving a scorch mark upon her tunic. With a curse, Shal rolled to her feet with cat-like grace and came up on the far side of the boulder, away from her attacker. Shal pulled something from a pouch on her belt, and began an incantation, but before she could finish, another globe of flame smashed into her chest, exploding over her torso. Narrowly avoiding being blinded by the flames, she began casting frantically, and grinned when she was done. As the next globe hit, she began to laugh evilly as it harmlessy dissipated over the magical force now protecting her. "Your spells are useless, little one! Come, show yourself, and maybe we can deal!" Instead of showing himself, Athmir launched a dagger at her head. Seeing it just in time, Shal dove away, but not quite fast enough. She yelped in pain as the dagger tore into her left shoulder. With a growl, Shal rolled to her feet, pulling the dagger from her shoulder as she did, and flung it back in the direction from which it had come, before beginning another incantation. Before another dagger came in, a small, glowing wooden shield appeared before her, floating in the air. With a fierce look upon her face, Shal began another incantation. When she finished, her eyes had a pale glow, and she looked for her attacker, ignoring the frenzied flurry of daggers, all of which the shield intercepted. After a moment, her gaze fell upon the Undead Stalked. With a grin, she purred, "I see you, little one..." and began casting again. When the incantation was done, she pointed at Athmir, and a pulse of green light flashed from her finger, and smashed into the Undead Stalker's head, quickly followed by a second, and a third. Readying herself for another spell, she watched the stalkers crumples form for any signs of like. As she watched, the form gave a slight shudder, then seemed to collapse in upon itself until only its robe remained, then even that evaporated into smoke, leaving only a few chips of bone upon the ground. Losing no more time, Shal spun towards the encampment, readying yet another spell which would immobilize the six group members. Much as she had feared, however, the group had apparently heard the battle, and fled. Storming into the camp, Shal looked for an indication of which way the group had fled, and found their trail easily enough. It led into the desert. Tapping into her still active See Invisibility spell, she spotted them running across the desert, and let out a howl of frustration. Seeing no easy way around it, Shal ser out after them, all the while muttering a string of curses that would make an ogre blush.


Chapter 12

Actually, it made an ogre laugh. Gibak doubted Shal would lose her prey, sadly, but any excuse to rificule her was welcome, so he continues to gaze into the crystal orb, watching Shal's pursuit...


Chapter 13


Shal reached into another pouch and pulled out a small stoppered vial with a murky liquid inside. She pulled the stopper with her teeth, stpi it to the ground, and swallowed the liquid. As she threw the vial against a boulder, enjoying watching it shatter, her bleeding shoulder quickly stopped bleeding, and the flesh knit together again, leaving only a pink scar, barely visible through her fur. Reaching into yet another pouch, Shal grabbed another vial, larger than the first. As she pulled the stopper from this vial, she grimaced at the pungent odor of the viscuous green liquid. Holding the image of an eagle in her mind's eye, she quaffed the potion. As soon as she dropped this vial, a howl of pain erupted from her twisting lips. Soon, her whole body was twisting and changing, until her howl was the cry of an eagle excaping her beak as she spread her wings and leapt into the air. If she still had lips, she would have smiled. The unsuspecting fools thought they had escaped! The thought made her fly faster, quickly catching up to the fleeing party. She landed ahead of her prey and ended the transformatiion with a thought, already beginning her chant as the companions scrambled for their weapons. AS B'ior and Unak began their charge, axes helf high for an attack, Shal finished her spell, freezing all six companions mid-stride. Chuckling cruelly, Shal purred to them, "You led me on a merry chase. I enjoyed that!" Looking to Daemar, she said, "And the Stalker! Quite a challenge. You have gained in power! But now, you, as well as your unfortunate friends, are going home. The Overlord has missed you, Daemar!" Shal pulled some components from her pouches and began chanting, watching her captives to be sure they did not break her spell. As she finished the incantation, her six captives began to glow, myriad colors shooting from their bodies, until they seemed to explode, and Shal winked out of existence, leaving behind only the explosive thunder of a mis-cast spell...


Chapter 14

Elsewhere, still fleeing north through the boulders, Alnara stopped and screamed in pain. Her companions rushed to her, Ela'Ri readying a healing spell. Before they reached her, however, a thunderous sound assaulted their ears, and a rainbow colored cloud settled upon them. When the cloud and noise dissipated, they were no longer where the had been...


Chapter 15


"Is everyone OK? Are we all here?" Daemar asked, quickly looking around. B'ior and Unak, axes still at the ready, were warily looking around, Hogarth crouching behind them, throwing daggers at the ready. Ela'Ri was tending to Alnara, who seemed to be the only injured person. The dwarves and Unak all confirmed that they were finer, but Ela'Ri said, "We are OK, but Alnara is not." "Can she be moved?" Daemar asked. "I know not where we are, and would rather be out of sight..." Ela'Ri cast a healing spell, and then said, "I can find no physical injury. Perhaps we can move her..." B'ior slung his axe over his back, and picked up Alnara. "Where to?", he grunted. "Anybody recognize these woods?" Daemar asked. All heads shook no, and Daemar said, "Then west is as good as any direction!" and lead them off. After 20 minutes, they found a cave, and ducked in. While B'ior carefully laid Alnara on the floor, Daemar cast a light spel, and Unak took a position near the opening, while Hogarth scoured the cave for danger. Daemar approached Eal'Ri, who was again tending Alnara. "How is she?" "She appears to be in shock, but why this affected her, and not us, I don't know..." With a sigh, Daemar replied, "I think I know. The Rakshass must have case a powerful spell on out illusionary doubles. The link to her mind could cause this..." "How do we help her then?" "We can't..."

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