Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Decidedly Non Auspicious Adventure (Part 1)

When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home ~ Thornton Wilder (4/17/1897 to 12/7/1975) an American playwright and novelist who won three Pulitzer Prizes - for the novel "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" and for the two plays "Our Town" and "The Skin of Our Teeth". He also won a US National Book Award for the novel "The Eighth Day".

Suri Cruz backed away slowly. Her companion William was drawing far too much attention, and Suri knew it was only a matter of time before the police arrived. Sure enough, a number of uniformed officers emerged from the crowd after William punched a portly woman in the gut. The crowd started shouting and several people pointed fingers at William. The overweight woman sank to her knees without a sound, then fell on her face and lay there unmoving. "Great", thought Suri. This appeared to be William's SECOND murder of the day!

One of the uniformed officers commanded William to surrender, and he took off running down an alleyway. Suri pushed her way through the crowd, intent on getting back to the Inn as quickly as possible. As far as she knew the authorities were looking for her, an accessory to the earlier murder, wherein William slugged a priest in the nose, causing him to fall and hit his head in the stone courtyard outside the temple of the oracles.

Suri intended to grab her gear and clear out of town before she was found and arrested. This wasn't the first time William's actions had lead to the deaths of innocent people. The adventuring party she and William belonged to previously was wiped out in a disastrous encounter with the Caecilanoids of the Underdark. A party of seven people was whittled down to just two - her and William - before they finally made it back to Schultzberg, the small hamlet both she and William had grown up in.

After they successfully located the Caecilanite treasure, the others seemed overjoyed, quickly forgetting the earlier death of Artemis, Suri's mage apprentice. The gangly teenager died when a spell he was casting fizzled and he was knifed in the gut by one of the small group of goblins that attacked them shortly after they entered the caverns.

Suri blamed herself. She never should have allowed Artemis to accompany them on such a dangerous mission. But Artemis had demonstrated himself to be a promising magic user on their first few missions, and, when he begged her to allow him to travel with them into the Underdark, she relented when William promised he'd keep an eye on the young magic user. How foolish that decision had proven! After easily dispatching the half-dozen goblins everyone - including William - was shocked to find Artemis near death.

Joshua, the half-elf cleric attempted a healing spell, but was too late. "I messed up the incantation" Artemis muttered as Suri cradled his head in her arms. "A healing spell, stat!" she shouted at Joshua. The holy man laid his hands on the boy and began to chant, but Artemis was already gone. "What am I going to tell his parents?" Suri exclaimed, glaring at William.

"Why are you glaring at me?" William asked. "I don't know his parents". "You promised to keep an eye on him", Suri cried. "Oh, yea, I did do that", William said, remembering his earlier pledge. "It didn't even occur to me that a couple of goblins would be a problem for the kid".

Suri suggested that they abandon the mission and return home, but was outvoted by the rest of the group. Suri did manage to convince the companions to cover the body with some rocks, and she vowed to return at a later date. "His family would want his body returned for a proper burial" Suri explained when William complained about the time they were wasting. She knelt down and said a silent prayer, tears filling her eyes.

Several days later they finally located the chamber where the secret door leading to the treasure was supposedly located. The yellowed map Artemis' father found among some old papers that belonged to a now deceased grandfather lead the way. "Completing the mission is the least we can do to honor Artemis' memory", a self-serving William had reasoned, and everyone excepting Suri agreed.

The halfling thief, Leeta the Lucky, ran her hands over the smooth stone walls, using her unique skills in an attempt to locate the secret door... if it existed. The pale light of a glowing stone atop Suri's staff illuminated the chamber. After 20 minutes (or more) had passed Suri heard a squeal escape Leeta's lips. "I found a lever", Leeta said. "I think this may be it". Suri looked at Leeta and saw the small female halfling squatting in a dark corner, her hand wedged into a narrow crevice where the wall met the floor. Leeta pulled furiously and a crack appeared in the wall.

A rectangular outline materialized in what had once been a solid stone wall, then a door swung open. Abel, one of two burly blond blue-eyed fighters was about to step through when Leeta hissed, "wait, I need to check for traps!". "Nonsense" William said frowning at the halfling. "Enough time wasting, let's go get that treasure!". "Indeed" Abel agreed, "Me and my brother have had enough of this dark place. We want to go home". He strode through the opening and was promptly skewered in the side with a massive spear that sprung from the door frame.

"My Gods!" screamed Abel's brother Rutger. He rushed to his brother's side, but it was too late, the spear had slain Abel instantly. Unable to enter the room because Abel's large frame blocked the doorway, William swung his sword and hacked through the shaft of the spear with three mighty blows. Rutger grabbed his brother around the waist and gently lowered him to the ground. "Who will help me carry my brother's body home?", Rutger asked.

"We'll deal with that after retrieving the treasure" William answered. "But first I think Leeta should check for traps". "Sure, now's a good time to check for traps", Suri remarked sarcastically. A visibly angry Rutger looked like he might leap to his feet and attack William, but was stopped when Joshua knelt down next to him to say a blessing over his dead brother's body. Joshua closed Abel's eyes, finished his prayers, and the remaining companions proceeded through the doorway after Leeta determined the spear was the only booby trap present.

SWTD #117, WTM #5.