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The Adventuring Party

Taking Back Stagthorn Keep

By Anthony DiazPublished 12 months ago 14 min read
"Adventuring Party" By Artist: Kennon James; Instagram @kennon9

“This better be worth the ten thousand gold promised.” Vokkug, a veteran dwarven fighter of clan Battlewhirl, huffed under his breath.

“Ten thousand gold each.” Calum Keaty, the famously known underground thief of Bridgemire, reminded in an enthusiastic glee. The Halfling was growing tired of the small jobs offered by the rich politicians of Bridgemire. Secrets were not as fun as getting his hands dirty.

The coin was offered the day prior to them venturing into the deep caves of clan Stagthorn. A line of incredible history, Stagthorn has fought in every major battle for Bridgemire for nearly five centuries. They built their keep deep in the mountains and caves of Greenwick, a vibrant city just to the northeast of Bridgemire. A rumor had spread that the Stagthorn clan had fortified themselves within their own cavern halls due to a horde of undead and creatures thought long deceased. Six were hired, personally selected by the council of Bridgemire, on a reconnaissance quest. Seek and discover what troubles the mighty clan of Stagthorn.

“It is not always about the riches, mighty Vokkug, old friend.” A voice from the rear of the marching order calmly said while training his elven eyes to the dark areas of the caverns. Agis Erris, the elven friend of Vokkug of many years, began to ready his bow. “Bah. It’s always about the coin, me’boy.” Vokkug snorted in response. “But yer right, it wasn’t always.” He whispered.

Beneath full armor, shield, and weapon walked Sir Gaenburgh of Linfos, a Bridgemire Knight. He knew Agis, Calum, and Vokkug through reputation and a minor tavern brawl that he would have been the arresting official of; however, he let them pass due to witness testimony that the three were only acting in self-defense. He opted out of receiving the full reward from this mission; he instead wished for half his share to be sent to his sister. Recently widowed, she was going to need the money and need it quickly. He always figured out a way to help.

“Tell me, Vokkug, why do you think this clan of battle-hardened dwarves barricaded themselves if they did at all?” Engeleisia al-Dallal, the powerful sorceress of Bridgemire, asked while observing her step through the terrain. “Don’t know, must be some’thin big and nasty to have the whole clan in a defense,” Vokkug responded, also watching his footing as the terrain went from smooth, intricate mosaics to rubble and debris. There was no sign of clan Stagthorn just yet, but the growing sign of struggle and battle brought a fearful deep breath onto the strong dwarven fighter. Something didn’t sit right with him.

Engeleisia moved with grace and carefully maneuvered around the growing number of larger pieces of rubble. She noticed half of a dwarven statue, ten feet in length, appearing from the darkness into the light shined by her light spell encompassing a fifteen-foot circle around her. She devoted her life to the use of her natural magic. She was both strong and intelligent. Becoming recent friends with Vokkug allowed her to adventure like she once did once more. The coin offered was simply expendable funds for her. Not her first dungeon or deep-dwelling quest, as she, too, was feeling uneasy making their way deeper into clan Stagthorn’s stronghold.

The passageway entering the Stagthorn lair was that of remarkable architecture and clever mechanisms. A number of precise locking and unlocking mechanics allowed them to gain access to the community and trading levels of the first three hundred yards of visible commons areas and vendor stands. Beyond that was the first section of stairs leading down towards the main hall. The second large open area within the carved-out mountains was a well-lit array of small roads and houses. Centuries of experience and engineering went into the layout and lighting systems of this fantastic display. The Stagthorn clan even figured out a way to achieve natural lighting from the sun using an array of mirrors when needed.

“Two streets up, we take a right, then an immediate left. We go straight into the commons hall.” Eadwin’s demeanor was matter-of-factly and to the point. His eyes always moved, and he never slouched. His breathing became calmer the deeper they went. Upon reaching the third level of Stagthorn keep, he estimated they were approximately another quarter mile away from the mountain’s entrance. Deeper, they walked. The once brightly lit torches and magical lights are now dimmed and extinguished. Eadwin paused for a moment and concentrated on the area in front of him. He detected an evil presence, not in one particular location but everywhere. “Stay vigilant; there is something down here.” He whispered.

The third level. Broken tables and chairs littered the ground. Discarded armor and weapons lay on the floor as if in a perfect position of a body; however, nobody was present, no trace of blood. Broken arrows and bows also lay on the ground. Hundreds of these weapons and armor sets lay eerily along with mounds of rubble. Vokkug snorted and huffed at the sight. These were his kin. He wouldn’t believe his historically mighty cousins to lay down their arms and flee. Something must have happened. A stench of musk and halitosis breezed the six companions.

“Come on, this way.” The whole armor of Eadwin Bearmore moved in complete silence as he led this expedition into the mountains and caves. Wielding a short sword made of cold iron steel in his right hand and an everlasting torch in his left, he looked down into the open cavern’s entrance. The stairs hugged the left side of the rocky walls. From his vantage point, a massive pillar expertly carved to resemble the old dwarven kings of Stagthorn became faintly visible as he stopped and surveyed this new area. The five other companions gathered around the seasoned adventurer turned Bridgemire head of expeditionary forces. Eadwin held the torch in front of his person and let go. It hovered in perfect stillness as he took off his heavy armored helmet. His age was a mystery. His dark hair and beard suggested a man of vibrant youth; however, his scars and wrinkles told a story of long days and even longer nights. “The great hall entrance should be just around the bend down these stairs and up to a flat area.” His words spoke of hours of studying maps and memorizing a small number of hidden passages that led them to this point. “Then off we go.” Engeleisia nodded with a smile. Eadwin donned his helmet, grabbed the levitating torch, and continued on.

They carefully walked down the set of stairs. Eadwin’s torch lit enough of their path to expose the drop on their right side. Unable to fully see the depth of the cliff, they each acknowledged the potential danger and nodded. Vokkug, with his dwarven heritage, did not need light to see in the darkness; however, he couldn’t see anything past five feet from the dark cliff abyss. “Keep ya wits about ya. My gut tells me something is down here.” Vokkug sharply whispered. Agis nodded. “I can’t see anything either.”

Eadwin, at the ready, slowly pressed forward. His armor was still as silent as a foot walking on feathers. Sir Gaenburgh expertly maneuvered in near silence wielding his heavy mace and shield, donning the Bridgemire coat of arms, a profile view of a wyvern. Used only by Bridgemire Knights, it was a symbol of bravery and strength. Vokkug of clan Battlewhirl kept his long trusted axe and shield at the ready. His shield, made from the most robust wood, reinforced with riveted strips of steel, donned his clan insignia, a tornado with a single axe protruding from the cyclone. His heavy boots stomped on the rocky stairs. Vokkug didn’t care for silence when entering a potential battlefield; he wanted the world to know he was there. Engeleisia chose magic over hindrance. Her spells were powerful and plentiful. She could easily cast a set of magical armor upon her body and be protected from many hits. Her weapon of choice was her power, although deadly with a kukri she kept on her lower back; it was her last resort if things were to get messy. Calum relied heavily on his swiftness. His halfling feet moved in muffled steps, his magical leather armor protected him from many battles, and his enchanted blade allowed him to move almost as fast as his companion Agis. Agis, an elven warrior like no other, did not need enchantments or magic to make himself silent. His natural abilities as an elf did that for him. His thin leather garbs and armor allowed him to move freely as he effortlessly wielded his bow and scimitar.

Vokkug clanked upon every step down this passageway.

“I truly wished you would move with caution.” Sir Gaenburgh, poised for a fight, whispered behind.

“Bah, why are ye so damn skittish? Aren’t ya a Knight?” Vokkug harshly whispered back.

“He’s got a point; we should be careful. There might be a dragon or some other huge, winged creature in here.” Calum softly said while trying to calculate the potential size of something living in the dark caverns beneath them.

Engeleisia turned to address Calum’s concerns. “No, I don’t think anything like a dragon would be down in a dwarven cave.” She lifted her hand and again spoke. “Not at all; what we should be concerned about is.” She stopped. Her eyes widened. From the darkness, five feet from the edge of the carved-out stairs rose a long tentacle. It slithered through the air, reaching for what could be making that noise. “Prepare yourselves,” Engeleisia warned.

The tentacle, in a single swift movement, snapped the tip of its appendage towards Calum, managing to capture a piece of Calum’s cloak.

In front of Eadwin, just outside his view from the torch, was a member of clan Stagthorn. He was stiff, motionless, and his mouth moved awkwardly as he talked.

“Ah, welcome; how may I be of service.” The mouth and words seemed to be slightly miscued. One was slower or faster than the other.

Vokkug walked heavily past Sir Gaenburgh and Eadwin. “Ah, cousin! Why are you talkin’ weird?” Vokkug, the experienced and robust fighter of clan Battlewhirl, stopped himself from getting closer. Approaching the once proud Stagthorn dwarf would have yielded a sprung trap. Vokkug, as well as his two close companions, noticed from their peripheral the meaty tentacle behind the standing dwarf. “Oh no.” Sir Gaenburgh saw the tip of the tentacle exit the now agape mouth and vibrate as it lifted the poor soul from the ground. The tentacle used the once brave Stagthorn warrior as a puppet, talking through the corpse. A discombobulated voice echoed through the cavern. “You don’t want to play?”

Hands began to climb from the stair’s edge. An arrow sang past Sir Gaenburgh and sunk itself deep in the temple of an approaching undead dwarven creature. His eyes were no longer the vibrant green that made his clan famous in some parts of the world but were milky and lifeless. Agis reached into his quiver and pulled another arrow. A spell cast in preparation allowed for his quiver to never dwindle the number of ammo spent. It furthermore allowed for arrows with unique properties to be magically used on command. “Acid.” Agis whispered and drew an arrow. Upon the tip of the arrowhead, a green slime began to ooze. Agis nocked the arrow and quickly drew it back. He let the arrow fly; this time, it was in close proximity, and it landed a hit to the tentacle foe grasping at Calum’s cloak.

Everyone paused, quickly scanning their current predicament. The stairs offered only enough room for two mighty and broad men to stand side by side. Their weapons drawn would be a problem for most, but not for this battle-ready group. The silence was broken after a vengeful cry came from Vokkug Battlewhirl. The sight of his kin, his dwarven cousins, being used as a menacing puppet, drove him into a fury. Vokkug sprung from his position and chopped the giant tentacle holding the Stagthorn dwarven warrior clean. Vokkug’s eyes opened wide as he saw the lifeless body fall into the darkness below.

“Engeleisia! Cast a ball-o-light down! I want to see this foul evil!” Vokkug’s chest heaved and puffed outward as adrenaline pumped through his body.

Agis, Sir Gaenburgh, and Eadwin turned to witness a ball of bright light emanating from the hands of Engeleisia. She tossed and commanded the sphere down into the black nothingness. It didn’t reach a mere five feet until the first figure could be seen climbing the cliff towards them. Animated skeletal remains of some poor humans dug their bones and ligaments into the rugged ridge effortlessly, and cries of high-pitched shrieks echoed through the massive open cavern as more followed behind. It tilted its head sharply as it moved like a quickened elven fighter ready to die. The ball of light eased its way down further to stop on top of an enormous, hideous demon creature with large tendrils and tentacles orchestrating a slithering dance up the cliffside.

From Agis’s vantage point, he began to call out locations of enemies and approximate the depth of this portion of the cavern.

“It looks thirty feet deep, with a level floor bottom! Two undead approaches your front! Three approach our side!” Agis drew his bow as one undead creature, rotting flesh peeling from its cheek, began to rapidly make its way to the stairs; Agis released his arrow. The shot whistled past Calum’s right shoulder down to the undead’s cervical vertebra separating its head from its body in a single expert shot. “Two approach our side!” Agis called out.

Engeleisia concentrated on her body and cast a protective shield around her. Mage armor is a handy spell.

Sir Gaenburgh and Eadwin waited for the two undead monsters to make their way atop the cliff’s edge. The fierce Knight attempted a front stomp kick to the abomination’s chest, but the creature moved with great quickness and strength. It batted the foot down, sending Sir Gaenburgh closer to the beast. He could smell the rot as he came inches from it. Sir Gaenburgh swung his shield as a battering bludgeoning weapon to his foe and struck hard at the temple. The creature let out a howl as the hit cracked its skull, sending it back down to the cavern floor. Eadwin used the flame from his torch and said a prayer to his deity. The flame danced, jumped, and encompassed his blade. He smiled and pushed the edge at arm’s length. It levitated in position as he prepared for his approaching foe.

The undead approached and unsheathed an ornate scimitar blade. It began its assault by lunging forward, blade front. Eadwin sidestepped one stair lower. He immediately began to work on the undead’s lower extremities. He struck at the exposed kneecap, the walking dead parried, sending Eadwin’s blade to the open air. This calculated maneuver gained an exposed chest in Eadwin’s favor. He reached out his hand to summon the torch. It swiftly flew into Eadwin’s open hand. He stepped forward on the same step as the undead elf and jammed the torch directly into its chest. The blessed flames sundered the rib cage, and its body began to glow a bright white. It screamed as it denigrated into ash.

Vokkug huffed as his colleagues were having all the fun. The seasoned fighter spat on the floor in front of him and cursed these creatures to the hells. With only a few feet in front of him, it was enough to get a good running start. Vokkug sprinted forward and leaped into the air; he raised his axe over his head to drive through the demon creature beneath them. Calling upon his ancestors for guidance, the axe began to hum and glow a dull gray. Vokkug swatted away a striking limb from the multi-eyed dark creature, slowly making its way to the stairs. With a deep breath, Vokkug came down with his axe on top of his new foe. The axe, buried deep in what appeared to be the cranium of his enemy, began to emit a faint smoke. Vokkug removed his axe and retreated to the cavern floor thirty feet below his companions; he felt the eyes of dozens of undead. Deceased dwarves, elves, and humans could be heard attempting to breathe air into their empty lungs. The smoke began to increase in density as a whirlwind fell upon the opened wound. Vokkug dug his axe into an advancing enemy. His new kill dropped his short sword, as it fell lifeless once more. The dwarven fighter picked up the fallen weapon and tossed it into the speeding whirlwind. The blade shot downward, straight into the abomination, causing a deeper wound. Not to be outdone and to assist his long-time friend, Agis drew an arrow from his quiver, whispered the word "explosive," kicked a climbing undead humanoid from reaching the stairs, and let an arrow loose into the whirlwind.

Engeleisia smiled as she saw the arrow enter the funnel and head to the creature. An undead elven warrior quickly made his way to the stairs. In a flash, it attempted a cross-body slash against the sorceress. She dodged to her left, ducked down, and allowed the blade to slip above her. She countered by standing up, striking her opponent's elbow with a heavy closed fist, sending the sword out of the creature’s hands. She grabbed the back of the undead’s head, reached over with her right hand, and placed it center of his chest. With a smirk, she whispered, “Fireball.” A sphere of fire formed from her right hand into the undead creature; with the force leaving her casting hand, the magical ball of destruction flew out, taking the undead elf with it into the whirlwind. Two consecutive explosions blew a gaping hole into the now limb-limping creature from the abyss.

Calum managed to sneak past all of the combat and appeared in front of the hall’s entrance.

“It’s sealed from the outside.” He said to himself. He turned to his companions from the top of the stairs and yelled as loud as he could. “It is sealed from the outside!”

Loud pounding from inside the hall came through faintly to the Halfling Rogue’s ears.

“Let us out! Let us fight! Who is out there?” A deep voice screamed into the thick hall doors.

“Hold!” Calum positioned himself to where the unlocking mechanism would be. He concentrated on the lock itself. It was magically sealed. Magical locks were nothing to this former expert of thievery and secrets. It was a simple spell but done so that anyone could break it. Calum thought to himself; whoever cast this spell wanted the people on the other side to be found relatively easily after someone sacrificed themselves to the monsters within this cavern. Calum had an idea of where these creatures came from, but for now, breaking this spell was what was necessary. Calum placed his hand over the spell, and a slight “cling” popped the magical spell useless. Calum didn’t need to open the door as the massively thick, carved door began to slide open, revealing a small army of dwarves, elves, humans, half-orcs, gnomes, and a handful of other trapped inhabitants. Calum noticed that some dwarves had begun digging their way out from the opposite corner of the hall.

“Bout bloody time! We’ve woulda already dug out if we we’r to be in there any longer!” A hefty dwarven fighter donning shining armor, and a polished battle axe made his way past the hall’s entrance. He narrowed his eyes. He immediately saw the tornado from the bottom of the cavern. “Oh, I see our cousins have come to our aid; best not to have him have all the fun.” With a loud cry for his home, a loud cry for his fallen, a loud cry for his honor, Coldmar, the former King of Stagthorn, entered the battle with the vigor of a hundred angered soldiers. He was going to reclaim his home once more.

Fiction

About the Creator

Anthony Diaz

These things are always so awkward to write. I think I have lived an interesting life so far. I have held a number of different jobs from active duty military to delivery driver; and pretty much a wide range in between. Story time.

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Comments (1)

  • Ben DeLeon4 months ago

    I'm going to need more of this story, sir.

Anthony DiazWritten by Anthony Diaz

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