When I, Torben Eastlander, started taking down the tale of these Nentir Vale adventurers, I knew enough to be skeptical. Now, I know enough to be intrigued. I wanted to know the ending. Maybe it would explain why Barrick the dwarf drank so much. Or why Rift the wizard had such a difficult time speaking correctly. Or why the dragonborn Paladin Felsmon spoke so little. Or why the Ranger was always ready to go. Or why the cleric of Bahamut was so fervent.
I knew that the party had already opened two doors in the top level of the Tower of Mysteries. One to the north into a huge room with Vecna’s face and hand populated by an Enigma and Norkers, and one to the east with a Warder. Rift the wizard was prone on the floor with the Warder. Felsmon the Paladin was facing him. On the western wall, the evil wizard Paldemar had opened a door, shot the adventurers with lightning, injuring several of the them, and then magically locked the door again.
I looked over at the cleric. “So, what happened next?”
The Half-Elf drained his glass of Nentir ’97. His intense green eyes seemed ready to burst. He spoke: “Looking over my shoulder, I could see Felsmon in front of the massive brutish bulk of the Warder. In front of me, I waited for that wizard’s door to open, so that I could run into the room and, then, teach him what the Dragon has in store for Evil Doers. But, at the moment, all I hoped for was access to his accursed abode. Erik planned to yell to Rift to teleport in, after he moved with his swift ranger precision and sliced that magician from end-to-end. It was not to be.”
“Yes, the door did open again. We could see Paldemar. As soon as Erik moved to attack, a magic blast tore into Erik’s mind and severed it of the very techniques he planned to use. Effectively, Erik was immobilized. But, he could still yell. So, Rift teleported away from the Warder and in with the wizard. I stepped into the room. Blam! The door slammed and locked behind us. Rift and I were trapped with Paldemar.”
The cleric paused. He looked me in the eye with such intensity that I shuddered. “Our cause was righteous. We had to stop Paldemar for bringing Vecna into this world. Already, the accursed demon Inooghu had made it in from our failure. Here we would not fail. We could not fail! I looked at Paldemar. Surrender now! I said to him, or be destroyed. He simply laughed and launched his magic at us. Rift had her own powers, though, setting him on fire with a flaming sphere and trying to grab him with the Icy Hand she learned of the great wizard Bigsby. Some of Rift’s most powerful magic – they did little to this evil spellcaster.”
“Yes, our cause was righteous, but the two of us were trapped with an exceedingly powerful wizard who had nearly laughed at our wizard’s most powerful spells. At that moment, I nearly faltered.”
The agony of the moment of doubting still haunted the cleric. I refilled his glass. The others leaned in. Could it be that the cleric had not told them of his inner turmoil, his sense of uncertainty? What had happened that had hidden these feelings from Z’alden’s close comrades? I noticed that the entire room of patrons at the inn was quiet, too. They could not help but listen to the captivating tale.
The cleric drained the Nentir ’97.
The Dwarf spoke up. “When we realized that the doors was locked with Rift and Z’alden trapped inside with Paldemar, may he rot forever, what the Z-man didn’t know was that I was shoving Norkers left and right to try and find another door. I thought Erik was coming round, too, to help me open the door I found but he was busy hammering on the first door. Then, the blasted wizard Paldemar comes out the door and slams it behind him, locking Z’alden and Rift into his stinking chambers. The wizard was there, right in front of me. I swung my axe and ripped him a new one. I rang his bell so well that he couldn’t hardly move more than a foot or two from where he was standing he was so dizzy and wounded. Never knew I could make a blow like that.”
“But Paldemar had more planned, even if he couldn’t dance around us. His little Norker buddies were taking it to the Felsmon who could barely get one thing done. A Vecna statue had rung his bell, too, and dazed him. Then, the Paladin judges this Norker and rains down Bahamut’s justice in the form of a longsword on that Norker. Trial over!”
“Paldemar had his appeal, ready though, sucking stored energy out of pillar right next to Erik and raining lightning down on Erik and me. We was hurtin’, and then we hear Felsmon around the corner roar and the Norkers shout something in triumph, may the maggots infest their mouths forever, Felsmon had dropped unconscious. Erik and I were wounded badly, Paldemar’s black breath was stinking up the place with gloating. Z-man and Rift were stuck behind the magically locked door. It was looking grim.” Barrick took a swig of his ale and shuddered remembering just how black the situation had turned.
I glanced around. The crowd was enraptured. Concern radiated on every face.
The Ranger Erik stood up from the table, “And then, you wouldn’t believe it, but I believe it because I saw it – that door opened! Rift had defeated the lock!”
Smiles and nods erupted on the crowds faces. They had been nervous.
Rift pulled back at her sleeves, “I was pretty sure I had him ready, the lock I mean, when Z’alden says ’try your small tool.’ Well, I’m a pretty big tool, girl I mean, and I don’t like interference when I’m working, a door that is, but the cleric was good, right I mean, and the door swung open!”
Erik jumps on the table, “then Paldemar tried to get another spell off and it was punch time; I punched him right in the face, even as his frost tagged Barrick. Then, I put down the bow and it was sword time right into Paldemar.” Erik looked around sheepishly and sat back down. This gave me time to get out another quill.
The group in the inn tried to look as if they were minding their own business. But, it was clear they were waiting for more of the tale.
The dwarf took another tankard of ale down in one gulp. He looked over at Z’alden. “I don’t know what we would have done if that door hadn’t open. But for that single door, we were sunk. I had seen Z’alden’s next spell before. He walked through the newly open door and, well, he calls it a prayer to Bahamut, and now I do believe in something, but I think what I believe in is Z’alden’s belief. That Platinum Dragon worshipper was a real hope-giver to us. A dragon form filled the entire space 7 staff lengths from me to where Felsmon was lying on the ground and touched all the rest of us in between. My bruises healed up, Erik’s wounds closed, and Felsmon came back around I could hear. Several of the Norkers and the Enigma, may her face fall to pieces forever, looked weaker for having been touched by that Dragon. And we were stronger.”
The dragonborn Felsmon nodded, “I was down. I was out. Darkness all around me. Light from Bahamut brought me back. I was in. I was up. My blade and shield surround me. Norkers no longer to hound me.”
“More butterbeer for the Paladin”, I cried out to the barkeep. I had not heard poetry from the reticent Paladin. Ever he continued to amaze me. And, I amazed myself. I never bought drinks for anyone. These adventurers and their spirit were getting to me.
Erik jumped up, “Then Paldemar stuck me with a clear dagger. Probably one of the two Tiefling blades we sold to Gendar. I knew that was a bad deal. The blade broke off in the wound, and I couldn’t get it out. Did that thing smart.”
Barrick nodded at the pain his friend had felt. “What was smart was the Z-man’s next spell. Suddenly, an area 3 staffs by 3 staffs surrounding Z’alden had these little dragons all over it. Erik and Z’alden are getting healed while standing on this Ground and Paldemar, may rats dance on his eye sockets, was getting bitten and clawed by these glowing dragons.”
The cleric’s eyes gleamed, “By the Claw, I had looked Paldemar again in the eyes and told him, ‘My name is Zenithar al Denithar. You have killed too much. Prepare to die.’ He said he heard that one before. I told him ‘Not from us you haven’t.’ The Consecrated Ground that Bahamut granted was even stronger than ever. Erik’s and my own wounds stitched together as the healing powers of my new Mace strengthened the Ground. Dragon’s Breath! Paldemar knew that his evil was not welcome on that sacred space. Still, he couldn’t move. He could not shake Barrick’s mighty blow.”
“With Paldemar getting it, hit I mean,” the Eladrin shook her head, maybe too much Nentir ’97, “I moved the Flaming Sphere to the Enigmas, Norkers, and Warder so that they would get some, damage I mean. Then, Felsmon, conscious again but still prone on the ground and dazed from the statue, lashed out at the Enigma next to him with his sword shouting ‘For Kengi!!’ The Enigma got some from him, damage that is, and it was too much. On his knees, Felsmon had done the Enigma, killed it I mean.”
“I think it was when Barrick’s voice rang out, ‘In this life, you’re either a hammer or an anvil, Be a Hammer!’”, Z’alden smiled remembering the Inspiration they all had received from Barrick’s leadership. “with that, Barrick charged at the Warder who had started to come over to aid his master Paldemar. The horns on Barrick’s helmet ripped into the Warder. Erik’s arrows flew at a Norker, Rift’s magic flames from the Sphere and from a huge burst around her killed a slinging Norker even as she ducked sling bullets back at her. The tide was turning until a jet of flame shot out from a giant skull at the far end of the room, scorching Barrick as the Warder slammed into him and Paldemar could concentrate enough to send lightning careening into Rift and Erik. By the Wing, I dodged that shock in time.”
The cleric drained another glass, “The battle raged. Rift’s Flaming Sphere continued to devastate the enemy, killing another Norker. Erik’s arrows scored our foes, and Barrick’s axe exacted a toll on the Warder matching brute strength with a brute strike. Paldemar remained on the consecrated ground unable to move from Barrick’s dizzying blow, and, by the Claw, he felt Bahamut’s power even as Rift’s sphere moved next to him for even more fiery pain. I turned my head and Barrick’s damages from his fight with the Warder were more severe than I realized. By the Wing, my hands were infused with a silver and purple flame and the Great Dragon restored the injured fighter, curing his serious wounds. I turned and the Warder knocked me over, even as he pounded on Erik, Barrick, and me. It was a dark moment.”
Then the Ranger stood up, “But it was go time for the Light. Felsmon came across the room, swinging his sword, straight for Paldemar. Cuts and bruises erupted on his face as his own self, his own power, was put into the blows he landed on the magic user. Felsmon’s gloves glowed with the power of the Ogres even as his sword was alight with radiance as he smited Paldemar. It was no go for Paldemar. Felsmon had killed the evil wizard!”
The entire room had been hanging on every word. Cheers erupted! More ale and wine appeared at our table as the listeners wanted to hear the very end. The adventurers could not keep it quiet any more. The cleric stood on the table even as I continued to scribble my notes of their tale.
“Master dwarf looked at the fallen body of Paldemar and stared at the remaining foes. He shouted out, and what a voice he has!, ‘ Paldemar is dead, you scum of Vecna, come and get some more!’ The remaining Norker and the Warder could not resist his taunt and came to him as he taught them a sharp lesson with axe in hand! With the Warder close by, the Ranger dropped his bow, pulled out two swords at once and leapt onto the warder as though his swords were the Jaws of the Wolf. The Warder knew what a wolf’s bite meant that time, I tell you. The last Norker erupted in flames from our wizard’s magic sphere. Only the Warder was left. Rift’s fiery magic, Erik’s swords, Barrick’s axe, and Felsmon’s blade all extracted a price from the hulking brute. By the Wing, I moved the sacred ground so that the Warder would feel Bahamut’s power, too. I myself tried to hit him with mace and dagger to no avail. But he could not withstand Bahamut. The radiant dragons clawed and bit the brute, and he too was felled! The field was ours!”
Ale tankards clinked and cheers erupted more fervently. The priest’s little sermon had cast a spell over this group. Surely, there were several new converts to Bahamut on that day.
Later in the evening, once the crowd had dispersed, I gathered the group once more. “what would have happened if that locked door hadn’t opened to Rift’s pick?”
Rift smiled ruefully. “I would have gotten it, eventually I mean, but..” Barrick interrupted her, “but by then Erik, Felsmon, and me would have been dead. I don’t believe in much, but Bahamut, may his wings beat forever, smiled on us at that moment and throughout the rest of the battle.”
“Oh, one last question”, I asked them, “In the wizard’s stronghold, did you find anything?” Rift’s eyes shone, “Oh yes, we did. Paldemar had a staff of Fiery Might that I could put to much better use than he ever did. And, the hoarding wizard had a magic axe more powerful than what Barrick was already wielding. He also had a book with rituals he wouldn’t need, since he was dead. And a magic shroud to preserve the fallen. Too late him.” The Eladrin smiled contentedly. Their hard fought victory had given the group back its verve.
I still often reflect on how so much of their adventure rested on that locked door opening at just the right time, freeing the cleric and wizard to heal the combatants and join the battle. The Fighter, Ranger, and Paladin were freed up to use their powers to exact a tremendous price from Vecna’s minions before the same could be done to them. So much can hinge on so little. Maybe this explains their peculiar behaviors. Maybe it does not. I will take them either way.
Peculiar or not, I am proud of these adventurers, I must tell all those who read this, proud for all people that such courage and determination still dwell in the Vale to protect us all from the evils that would destroy us.