What an awful morning. 'Tis way to early to be up and on the computer. Thus I bid you bad morning, fillies and gentlecolts.
Here is the next Passage of the Planeswalkers installment! Enjoy!
Mange’s combination of a great sword, two harpoons, the blood and gore from several different monsters and the skull from a fifty foot snake as a helmet, was really quite intimidating, despite the fact that he was only four feet tall. When he turned on the menace, he could quite literally make people wet their pants. For the second time in as many days, he sent the shopkeeper running, screaming for the back rooms. He grinned and shoved the small pile of gold on the table into his bag, then turned to the rest of the group. Today, there were no rookies among them. Lereahl, the roguish half-elf stood in the corner, looking shifty. Jet-Ulfgar, the red-bearded dwarf was thumbing his axe in another aisle, waiting impatiently for their next adventure. And Rathalohse, the slim ranger with the top hat full of cheese stood behind Mange, staring off into the distance. The slight smile on his face could only mean he was thinking about dairy products.The gates of Liseth, the magical portal between realms, stood high and glittered in the evening sunlight. The four companions stepped through, into the blinding white magic, all quite used to the strange buzzing sensation by now. Another few steps and they felt themselves enter the new world on the other side of the portal. They were immediately hit by the iciest blast of wind any of them had ever felt. Mange and Lereahl immediately began to shiver. All four of the travelers tried to blink the dazzling white portal magic from their eyes, only to realize that this world was no easier to see through. They were standing in the middle of a howling blizzard, on what appeared to be a flat, blasted ice plain. The wicked wind was so bad that the name of this frozen realm, which any Planeswalker would have heard whispered to them upon arrival, was instead snatched away.
“It’s s-so c-cold,” yelled Lereahl over the wind and between his chattering teeth.“We need to find shelter!” called Jet over the blasting snow. The group nodded shakily and shuffled off into the blizzard. They had not walked far when they saw something dark on the ground ahead. Approaching it, they saw a large set of polished black steps leading down to a doorway made of similar black stone. They hurried down the stairs. Strangely, the wind was almost at a standstill in this crack in the plain and the black stone gave off a small amount of heat. The four stomped and wrung some warmth back into their hands and feet as they inspected the black double doors. They were covered in images of crossed war hammers and axes and short men with huge beards, etched forever in this black stone in warlike poses.“Hmph. Dwarvish carvings,” grunted Jet, folding his arms crossly. Mange looked at him strangely.“You don’t like dwarves? How can that be? You are a dwarf,” he said.“Doesn’t mean I like them. My clan was cruel to me growing up. I was always different. ‘S why I chose to live in the great Planeswalker city when I found I had the ‘spark’,” replied Jet.They were just about to argue whether or not it was safe to push open the black doors when there was strange, cracking, rumbling sound. It was audible even over the roaring of the storm. They turned to see something enormous burst from the ice, not twenty feet away from the top of the black stairs. The huge, white and blue body grew and grew, stretching up into the storm, fifty – one-hundred – two-hundred feet straight up. It growled, a deafening roar of ice and fury and began lowering its great mandibled head to the ground, sniffing at the new smells of warm flesh.“Oh… my… gods…” muttered, Lereahl, standing frozen, staring at the monstrous creature. “SNAKE!” He screamed and threw himself at the black doors. The great white worm however, was more interested in the skinny ranger. Rath turned white as the huge head turned to face him. He reached into his pack and grabbed the first thing his hands touched and threw it at the creature, hoping to distract it. The triangle of lovely yellow cheese was snatched up by the blazing winds and disappeared into the blizzard.“No! My cheese!” howled Rath, launching himself after it.“No! Everybody inside! Now!” yelled Mange, grabbing the back of his jacket and shoving him through the slightly open doors after Lereahl. He grabbed the reluctant Jet and dragged him inside too. It was not a moment too soon, as the huge white worm struck at the black door, slamming it shut and throwing them into pitch blackness. It threw itself again and again at the door, but after a while, there was silence.“Wow. It’s really dark in here,” said Mange, waving his hand in front of his face. It so dark in fact, that he somehow managed to smack himself in the face, and nick a finger on his snake skull helmet.“Ow,” he muttered, and then pulled out a torch. With a spark, the magical torch lit. The flickering glow illuminated a massive cavern. Enormous pillars and heavy, stone carvings of the same, warm black stone filled the hall.“How many torches do you have?” asked Lereahl, peering into the vast darkness beyond.“Just the one,” replied Mange.“Only one?”“Don’t worry. This one cost me a pretty penny – it’s ever-burning.”The first door they found was a huge archway that was filled with black stone rubble. They moved onto a door that had a strange carving over the archway. It looked like a completely normal face, albeit with large, horrible fangs. The door was the same, warm black stone. Mange, obviously a bit excited from the terrifying encounter with the giant white worm, charged the door with his shoulder. The tiny halfling bounced comically off the black stone.“Er, did you think to try the handle first?” asked Rath. Lereahl sniggered in the darkness behind them.The corridor behind that was lined with more doors. They picked one at random and pushed their way in. This room was smaller. In the centre was a long table at which stood high backed chairs. There were maps and charts all over the room and a great huge parchment on the table, littered with tiny war figurines.“Ooh! Army men!” said Rath, rushing forwards to play with them. The others stepped into the room, looking around carefully too. Rath and Jet had now somehow acquired a biscuit each. They each took a bite and then eyed the others’ biscuit, seemingly jealous of the other’s biscuit flavour.“Trade,” they said in unison and swapped their half eaten biscuits. This transaction was so odd, that the others had failed to notice the huge wolf, with a slight, magical blue aura standing quite still in the corner of the room. The huge, white-furred creature lunged at Jet, latching powerful jaws around his arm, causing him to drop his biscuit. The great wolf growled and shook its head, meaning to throw Jet about, but the Dwarf was made of stronger stuff and would not be moved. Instead, he pulled out his axe and gave it a chop across the chest. The wolf growled, fell back, but then lunged again, fastening its teeth around Jet’s leg. Jet kicked the wolf’s jaws away, stood up and charged at it. His shield clouted the wolf fairly on the head, stunning it and allowing him to pin it to the ground. Lereahl rushed up with his sleek dagger drawn and slid the blade between two ribs. Mange, his bloodlust already stirred by the huge white snake, raised his great sword and let out a terrible cry. Even Jet looked quite terrified as the halfling rushed forward to cleave the wolf in two. Thinking it defeated, Jet got up and walked away, leaving the two halves of the beast gushing blue, crystallizing blood all over the black stone. However, the wolf was not done. Somehow, the front half of the wolf, still snarling and thrashing, hauled itself up. The now bipedal wolf threw itself at a stunned Rath. The sight was truly impressive. Its jaws closed around his throat, but just before it ripped out his jugular, mixing red blood with blue, the wolf went slack and fell with a muffled thump, dead on the ground.“What a committed creature. Even with only two legs it was going to try and kill us. Its head will make a fine trophy,” said Mange, striding forwards to lop it off. Lereahl came forward too, looking at the glowing blue and white pelt.“Interesting. Want to help me skin it?” he asked the eager halfling. When the skin was finally separated from the carcass, Mange hesitated for a moment, then licked the pelt. Lereahl stared at him, shocked. Rath however wanted nothing more to do with the wolf, having nearly had his throat ripped out by only half of it. He sat down and pulled out the beer he had packed.“A manta ray…” said Lereahl, shaking his head.“Yup,” replied Mange.“Seriously, a manta ray?”“Yes. A manta ray.”“That cloak will let you turn into a manta ray. Swimming, breathing underwater – the whole shebang?”“Apparently,” replied mange, fingering the new cloak. He had found it in another room they had cleared out. Why dwarves in a frozen wasteland had ever needed a cloak to turn oneself into a manta ray, they would never know. Lereahl shook his head in amazement and turned back to Rath, who was still fiddling with the lock on the last door.“Dude. I’ve already tried it. You’re not going to be able to get it open. I’ve been picking locks since-”There was a tiny click and the ranger grinned at Lereahl as the door swung open. Lereahl glowered at Rath and folded his arms.Inside they filed, looking around at more polished black obsidian. In the darkness though, there was a strange glow. It was as if mist was hanging in the room. The group gasped when they saw what it really was. Hanging in the air was a translucent figure. It’s features were blurred, but one could easily see the many tiny barbs that protruded from its wispy body, bleeding silvery, gaseous blood. The specter looked mournfully at them and then gestured slowly to the left and right walls of the room. With a soft sigh, it vanished.“Well. That was weird,” said Mange.“Indeed,” added Lereahl. “You know, I’m actually kind of beginning to wonder whether this is all a bit too easy. I mean, the last few rooms had nothing in them but abandoned stuff and empty shelves. It feels like there should be trap-” The word wasn’t even halfway out of his mouth when Rath spotted a huge chest at the back of the room. Rushing forwards, he stepped on a pressure plate.“Ooow…” moaned the ranger, pulling out another dart.“You were lucky you were wearing armour,” said the halfling. “Otherwise there’s be two rather mournful ghosts trying to warn others about that trap.”“I told you so…” muttered Lereahl, looking rather smug. Rath glared at him. Not only had the booby trap peppered him full of dart holes, but the others had demanded that he share the thousand gold pieces he found in the chest at the back of the room. In another room where they had fought fiery demon imps – Mange had cleaved one of these in half too - They had also found a small bag of gems. Lereahl was unimpressed by the quality of the stones, and confused by the strange image of a slug-turtle beast on the bag, but pocketed them anyway.As they headed back to the great, pillared cavern, there was a sudden shudder. The black floor beneath them shook and a great grinding and cracking noise could be heard from the cavern ahead. The earthquake shook the hallway again and again, but then the floor grew still. Ahead the sounds of grinding rocks continued. It actually sounded like something was munching on them. Cautiously, the four planeswalkers ventured into the now rubble strewn cavern. The opposite wall was now a great, gaping black hole. Sitting in the hole, shoveling rocks into its vast, bloated, mottled yellow-green belly was a slimy, many eyed beast. It was enormous. It towered over the companions, scooping rocks and slime into its gaping maw with blunt, flipper like appendages. It looked like a horrible cross between a giant slug and a turtle. And even though the four raised their weapons, and several of the eye stalks swiveled to watch them, the beast seemed quite content to continue eating rock.“Well. That’s different,” said Mange, lowering his sword.Jet was staring up at the beast, his brow furrowed.“Delver,” he said suddenly.“Pardon?” asked Rath.“It’s called a delver. Creatures that live underground. They tunnel for miles and miles, just eating rocks. They can go on murderous rampages, but generally, they just like to eat dirt.”“How do you know all this?”“I read it in a biology book.”“A book? You? A dwarf actually read a book?” Lereahl was pretending to be aghast. Jet punched him.“Shut up half-blood. It was a good book. And besides. I know something that could make this beast quite useful to us,” he said. “Give me that pouch of rotten gems you found earlier.”“Why? They’re mine,” replied Lereahl, rubbing his arm where the dwarf had punched him.“Give them to me,” he growled. Lereahl rolled his eyes.“Fine. They’re probably not worth anything anyway.” He pulled out the leather pouch and handed it to Jet, but not before noticing the strange picture on the bag again. A turtle-slug. A remarkable resemblance to the vast creature licking rocks before them now.“Oh…” breathed Lereahl, understanding.Jet moved slowly towards the gargantuan beast. Most of its eyes were fixed on its meal, but more and more of them began to flick over to wear the dwarf trod. It slowly stopped sucking and munching on rocks and made a noise like it was sniffing the air. It froze suddenly and all its eyes were on Jet. The slime around its huge mouth flowed even faster now and it gave a quiver of excitement. In fact, the huge slimy creature looked exactly like a giant drooly dog, waiting for a treat. Jet got as near as he dared and then tossed the bag of gems into the creature’s maw. The delver snapped them up and made a satisfied, if disgusting slopping, grunting noise. Jet waved to get its attention again and then pointed with both hands towards the caved in corridor. With a bound surprising for its size, the delver leapt towards the rockfall and began munching happily away at it, clearing the way for them.The now cleared tunnel led deep into the darkness. The ever-burning torch revealed another cavern, just as large as the one before. Here, the walls were thick with carvings and drawings of war scenes and battle and the shedding of Dwarven blood. Against the back wall there stood a huge stone throne and beside it, two decorative gargoyle heads spewing molten rock. Before the throne however, knelt six dark figures. Upon hearing their approach, the figures rose up and turned towards the travelers. Six dwarves stood before them, dressed in full armour. Three of them carried heavy shields, the other, enormous war axes. Every one of these dwarves was pale, emancipated, sickly. Their eyes were sunken and mad. They looked as if they’d been locked away in the darkness down here for too long and had long ago lost their minds.“Goblins!” one of them rasped. The troop began to move forward.“Uh, I assure you, we are not goblins,” said Lereahl, moving to the back of the planeswalker pack, his hands raised in a peaceful gesture.“Lies!” hissed another dwarf.“We must kill the goblins! In the name of King Tordek!” growled another.Diplomacy failed, Mange did what he did best – scaring people. He drew himself up to his full – which is not saying much – height and roared at the oncoming dwarves. The snake skull was obviously too much for one of the axe wielding dwarves, and he fled into the darkness, crying. The other five attacked. Rath was quick on the draw and managed to slide and arrow right between the eyes of one of the shielded dwarves. He toppled back slowly, landing in the arms of his comrade behind him.“Jerry! Nooo!” cried the dwarf. Arrows, axes and swords began flying. Mange, with another show of strength and ferocity managed to leap forward and behead another axe wielding dwarf. He leapt to the side, the enormous swing carrying him into the shield of another enemy. The dwarf behind the shield’s eyes widened as his brother fell, head rolling away.“Nooo! Tom!” he cried.Meanwhile, Jet had landed a solid blow, and cleaved another enemy’s head from his shoulders. Lereahl, in the back, had been disabling their axe swinging arms with arrows to the shoulders. His crossbow seemed to have a thing for shoulders. Rath, further back still, grinned evilly and took a potshot at the dwarf who’d fled in fear. The dwarf cried and ran further into the darkness, an arrow now protruding from his buttock.With another great swing, Jet managed to lop the second last dwarf’s arm off. Floored, the dwarf gurgled and lay still. Mange was a blur as he raged past, screaming as he leapt onto the last dwarf. With three huge strokes of the sword, the last dwarf was reduced to six, bloodied, separate chunks. Mange panted as he stood over the carnage.“I’m going to have to start calling you the Great Divider if you keep this up. The wolf, the imp and now this poor fellow. You love your division,” tutted Lereahl.They walked past the bloodied corpses, wiping down weapons and sheathing them, interested to see what they could pilfer from the gem studded throne. Several large gems were loose and easily pocketed. Jet, however, had a keener eye and picked up a small, golden ring. Upon putting it on, to his and every one else’s astonishment, he disappeared from view completely.“Wow. A ring of invisibility,” said Rath, fiddling with a gargoyle head. Lereahl eyed the dwarf jealously when he reappeared. He would have really liked an artifact like that. He shook his head suddenly.“Wait. Guys. Doesn’t this seem familiar to anyone? Great underground caverns, a lost dwarven city, the threat of goblins, a halfling, a dwarf, a human and an elf travelling together, and a ring that makes it’s wearer invisible?”The others looked strangely at Lereahl, momentarily distracted from their pilfering.“Nah,” they said in unison and went back to stealing. Lereahl’s brow was furrowed for only a few moments more before he shrugged and went back to work too.Epilogue.Lereahl placed the large, gleaming aquamarine gem on the glass countertop. He saw the jeweler’s eyes widen momentarily, but then a perfect poker face was back in place. He sighed, fixed a glass to his eye and peered at the sparkling blue stone.“Hm… Well, it’s nice. But I’m afraid it’s worth only about 250 gold pieces,” the man said.Lereahl rolled his eyes. He had it under good advice that the stone was worth nearly twice that much. He sighed and leant forward to where the jeweler was still peering at the stone through the eye piece. Lereahl reached out with a finger, placed it under the man’s chin and gently tilted his face up.“Now, are you sure about that?” he purred. His eyes were soft and his most alluring smile so close to the man’s face. The jeweler was stunned. His breath caught in his chest and something clicked in his head. This beautiful, blond, half-elf had made him realize that he was in fact, gay.“Will you go on a date with me?” he whispered, his legs feeling like jelly. Lereahl sat back, a little stunned that for the first time batting his eyelashes had actually worked. But he recovered quickly.“I’m sorry darling, but I am taken for the moment,” he said sweetly. The jeweler’s face fell. Lereahl stroked the man’s chin.“But don’t despair. I may one day come back from my travels to find you,” he said softly, his grey eyes sparkling.“Okay…” breathed the jeweler.“Now, about this gem…”Lereahl left the jeweler’s a few minutes later, a mischievous grin on his face. His money bag was 700 gold pieces heavier and he could hear the jeweler telling his wife he wanted a divorce.