Sunday, June 30, 2013

For Wilfred!

Good evening internet! IamsosorryIhavenotpostedastoryinawhilepleasedon'teatme.

Lereahl was bored. For the past week, he hadn’t been able to find his usual misfit band of compatriots down at their usual haunt, The Mooneared Badger. So, he now found himself in the company of several others, traipsing through a Gate and into a thick, lush forest. The only face he knew among those around him, was the thickset druid Tarloch; his dinosaur companion stalked silently behind him, a few inches taller than all of them. Eolderin was a druid also. He was of average height for an elf and messy, sandy blonde hair hung in front of his bright green eyes. A longbow was slung over his back and a needle sharp bone dagger was at his side. He had objected furiously to Lereahl’s accompanying them at first. He apparently had a vicious hatred of humans, making Lereahl, who was a human-elf hybrid, even lower in his eyes. The last member of their party looked to be a completely ordinary man. He was black-haired, pale-pale skinned and about as tall as Lereahl. He had introduced himself simply as “Frank”. Not much else had been needed to let them know there was something off about the fellow.
They’d gone a little way into the forest without any sort of confrontation. The only movement they saw in the dense brush was the fluttering of leaves and swaying vines.
“Ow,” said Frank, making the group stop and look back at him. A stick had poked him in the eye. Tarloch sighed and looked up at the canopy. His expression turned into one of a frown.
“Vines moving,” he said in his slow, deep voice.
“It’s just the wind,” snapped Eol, sneering at the human.
“No. Vines moving. Like snake,” the druid said, pointing up into the trees.
Lereahl looked up in alarm. He didn’t much like snakes. But Tarloch was right. The vines above their heads were curling and twisting in a rather lifelike fashion, swaying curiously towards the travellers. Eol grunted derisively and scampered up the nearest tree trunk.
“Uh, I don’t know if you should do that,” called Lereahl as the elf disappeared into the leaves.
“Shut up, half-blood!” called Eol.
He’d only climbed as far as the first few branches when the vines he had come to see whipped out and curled themselves around his legs. Eol shrieked and grabbed onto a branch as the vines tugged at him. He was still screaming as he hastily pulled his dagger out and hacked at the binding tendrils. With a hiss, the vines released the elf and he tumbled to the ground, looking dazed.
“Well. I won’t say I told you so, but I must compliment you on your lovely girly screams,” said Lereahl, his grey eyes glittering in amusement. He offered to help the elf up.
“I was not screaming,” Eol snapped, batting away the proffered hand. “I was simply breathing high-pitched.”
Lereahl and Frank sniggered.
The group headed north. The lush forest broke suddenly upon a small, pebbly lake shore. A thin mist hung over the water, slightly obscuring the far bank. Eol ventured slowly down to the water’s edge and dipped a toe in. He squeaked and fell back.
“Damn that water’s cold!” he hissed.
“Wuss,” muttered Lereahl, who had turned away, a small sack in a hole catching his attention. He surreptitiously opened it to reveal a dozen or so glinting gold coins. The bag was in his pocket as quick as winking. When he turned back, he found the others arguing over whether to retrace their steps or not. They hadn’t noticed yet that ice crystals were creeping out from the edge of the lake.
“Guys, look,” said the rogue, pointing this out. They all quieted and watched as the ice spread rapidly. They pulled their cloaks closer around themselves as the temperature dropped and the lake’s surface froze completely.
“Cross lake now?” offered Tarlcoh.
“We could. I daresay the ice will thicken in a few minutes, judging from the speed at which the lake froze over,” said Lereahl.
“Who go first?” asked Tarloch. He, Lereahl, Frank and the dinosaur looked at Eol, who was still rubbing his chilled toes. He looked up, feeling their gazes on him.
“Uh... I’m not going out on that ice. No way,” he said shortly, glaring at them. Frank stepped forwards, a mildly menacing look on his face.
“No, no, no, no,” said Eol, rapidly backing away from the cleric. Frank grinned evilly and went to shove the elf. Eol however, stepped nimbly out of the way. His cry of triumph however, turned to a cry of dismay as his sidestep took him out onto the frozen lake. He slipped and wobbled over the ice, eventually coming to a standstill, arms thrown out wide for balance. There was a sharp crack and Eol was gone, falling through the thin ice with a shriek. Out of the rend in the ice came a hissing cloud. The mist formed into a vortex of ice and snow and then into two hunched, humanoid figures with glittering, icy blue skin and white eyes. The larger one screamed at the travellers. It was an unearthly sound, like fingernails on a blackboard. They rushed the companions, landing heavy blows. Lereahl leapt back and fit and arrow to his bow string, loosing it fast. A second quickly followed the first and struck the smaller of the ice elementals in the shoulder. It keened and slashed angrily at Frank. Torlach’s dinosaur was snapping at the larger one as it aimed for his master. Torlach himself had his hands turned to the sky and was muttering rapidly under his breath. With a blast that took their breath away, a jagged bolt of lightning shot from the clouds and hit the larger ice monster. It reeled back in pain, but still stood. It roared at Tarloch and charged him again. Tarloch raised his hands and muttered the words again, drawing a second sizzling bolt from the sky. This one was enough to blast the elemental into a million tiny shards of ice. Seconds after, Lereahl nailed the smaller elemental, his arrows shattering the creature’s icy hide. The strange, cold mist curled and withdrew and the ice on the surface of the lake melted and disappeared. Eol took great, gulping breaths of air and came swimming slowly towards the party. He hauled himself up the pebbly bank, shivering and glaring at Frank.
They’d had to turn around and head back the way they came anyway; the forest had been too thick to penetrate past the lake. The forest to the south of where they’d stepped out of the portal was thinner and eventually gave way to a cold, grassy plain. Ahead of them, they could see a figure lying in the grass. They approached slowly, to find an armour clad centaur lying very still and bloodied. At first they thought he was dead, but when Eol knelt to check if he was breathing, the creature coughed, blood flecking his chin. Eol was quick to offer him a health potion. Several of the centuar’s wounds were instantly healed by sizzling white sparks of magic and he was able to pull himself to his feet.
“What’s your name, friend?” asked Lereahl.
“Wilfred,” replied the creature.
“What happened here?” asked Eol, looking around at the crushed, bloodied grass. Here and there were chunk of rotting flesh.
“I was part of a troop – there was around thirty of us – hunting the creatures of the night.”
Lereahl sniggered, but Wilfred continued.
“There has been something of a plague of them in this part of the world. We do not know why. Would you two-legs be kind enough to help me back to my camp and my comrades? I am sure I can find more medical supplies there.”
The camp was deserted. Signs of hurried packing were apparent and the leather of the tents flapped with lonely sounds in the chilly wind. They moved through the camp and eventually came across a bunch of hoof prints leading to the south.
“There are no supplies left here. Would you honourable fellows help me find my troop?” asked Wilfred, looking off into the dark forest to the south.
“I’d love to!” said Eol, hurrying forwards. Tarloch however, shook his head. He’d had a small, discontented look on his face since they’d found the centaur lying helpless on the battlefield.
“No. Tarloch will not,” he said. “Wilfred, time is up for you. Beast so close to death must die. Only right. Is way of nature.”
The centaur looked taken aback. Lereahl rolled his eyes. The druid often went on like this; he’d seen it before. Lessons from Tarloch’s past had taught him that souls close to death had to die. ‘Twas why the druid despised the undead. To him, they were the most unnatural things on all the planes.
“You can’t be serious. Please, just return me to my herd. I am sure they have medicine for me. I can fight again, I assure you,” said Wilfred slowly backing away.
“Yeah , human! Keep your filthy paws off the pony!” said Eol, stepping in front of the centaur. Lereahl just wandered away and began pocketing anything valuable left in the camp. He knew not to get between the druid and his prey. Frank on the other hand was nodding pensively, considering Tarloch’s words.
“You’re right. The weak have no right to live on any longer.”
“Death and spirit shall be reborn anew. Life important,” said Tarloch, grabbing the violently protesting Eol by the shoulders and pulling him away.
“Can I do it?” asked Frank, grinning evilly. Tarloch nodded.
Frank stepped towards the quailing centaur and stretched out his hand. The death-touch was a mighty weapon. As soon as Frank’s fingers brushed Wilfred’s hairy arm, the centaur crumbled into dust.
“Nooo!” Eol threw off Tarloch’s restraining grip and rushed towards the pile of ashes. “Wilfred...” He knelt in the dust, looking dismally at the pile that had once been the noble centaur – then began stuffing the ashes into his bag.
The group journeyed further into the forest. The trees here were sickly looking; grey and diseased. There grew a strange, eerie feeling as the sun began to set. A sharp wind brought the smell of more decaying flesh. After disabling a cleverly disguised pit trap in the middle of the road, the group spotted a troop of centaurs in the distance. Eol burst into tears and ran towards them. Tarloch, Lereahl and Frank ran to catch up with him.
“They killed Wilfred!” Eol was shouting, pointing at the druid and the cleric. The centaur warriors looked utterly bewildered. Even more so as Eol ripped open his satchel and began throwing grey powder at them – Wilfred’s ashes. One of the gruffer, more dangerous looking ones stepped forwards. He glared at Eol as a puff of ash landed on his shoulder. The elf quailed under the glare.
“Wilfred? But he fell during out last battle. Why do you disrespect his memory like this?” he growled.
“But – he – they – Wilfred...” Eol’s lip quivered. The burly centaur turned to the others.
“You two-legs shouldn’t be in this forest. Why have you come?”
“We are Planeswalkers,” said Lereahl. The centaur’s frown turned into a grin. No more explanation was really needed.
“Well, well. Planeswalkers. Fancy helping a little?” he asked.
Everyone but Eol nodded. The elf pouted and looked at them all.
“Fine, I’ll help too,” he said finally.
Eol looked around carefully. It was nearly night. The centaurs were bunched closely, their backs together, the Planeswalkers ranged around them. Through the shadowy trees came the first rattling growls. Squinting, the warriors peered through the trees, setting eyes upon a shuffling horde of the undead.
“For Wilfred!” cried Eol, firing an arrow into a rapidly shambling skeleton.
Tarloch was using a different strategy now. He was muttering again, but this time, his skin began to glow gold. His shape seemed to ripple and change. He swelled in size and then suddenly, an enormous brown bear was standing between them and a hissing mummy. Tarloch rose up with his new, towering height and collided with the undead creature, smashing it twice and then grappling it with enormous forepaws. Lereahl was able to dash around behind the bandaged creature and sink two arrows into its sandy back, severing its spine. The mummy crumpled beneath Torlach’s weight and the bear roared triumphantly. Around them, the centaurs, Eol and Frank were finishing up the rest of the zombies. Lereahl strode up and patted Torlach on the head.
“Nice job, Whinnie the Pooh,” he said, a sly grin on his face. He withdrew his hand quickly as Torlach snapped at it in annoyance. They were distracted however by a sudden, horrific screeching. The sky was suddenly full of huge black wings as a skeletal dragon swooped down on the pair. Eol and Frank had a new opponent too. A huge, fat zombie staggered out of the undergrowth, roaring in hunger and fury. It launched itself at the elf and human as the undead dragon snapped at the half-elf and the bear. More, smaller black, bony dragons were pouring from the sky, snatching up the centaurs.
Tarloch roared and lunged at the dragon’s head, scoring great gouges in the rotting flesh. Tarloch’s dinosaur companion was whaling too on the creature. Lereahl was peppering the rancid hide with arrows.
Eol drew arrow after arrow and sank them into the fat zombie he and Frank dodged the grasping claws of the swooping dragons. Frank’s normally passive face was creased in concentration as he tried to turn the huge zombie to his will. The creature however, was much too strong. Eol, seeing Frank’s failure to bend the undead behemoth, pulled out a flask of acid and hurled it. The flask connected with the side of the zombie’s head and shattered, melting off half its face. The zombie however, just kept coming. Eol loaded arrow after arrow and finally just shot the zombie’s head off. The enormous body quivered and simply fell over.
The dragon was furious after being repeated smacked in the head by furry paws and lunged at Tarloch. The bear however, was ready for the attack and was able to crush the undead dragon’s skull beneath his paws. Tarloch’s dinosaur, unaware the enemy was dead, continued to attack its spine enthusiastically.
When the dust settled, the Planeswalkers realised that they were all alone. Every single one of the centaurs was either dead or had been carried off by the black dragons. They looked around at the corpses sadly. Tarloch however raised his nose to the wind. He had sensed some greater evil living deep in the darkness of the woods. He was still a bear though and was not able to communicate this to his companions, so he dropped down onto all fours and with a stern look at the others, began to shamble off into the forest. Eol looked at Lereahl and Frank and shrugged.
“Where’s he going?”
“Dunno. But he seems to know what he’s doing. C’mon guys, we’d best follow Paddington Bear.”
They moved silently towards the clearing. The three figures wore black hoods and chanted in low, eerie voices to the beat of their pounding scythes. Beneath their hoods, their eyes glowed white and pupil less. Frank gasped in awe as a dark portal appeared in the middle of the figures. Slowly, a glistening, spiny black leg rose from the shadowy hole, followed by the sharp carapace of a huge spider-like demon. Lereahl was first out of the shadows, firing arrows into cracks in the fiend’s armour.
“Get ‘im Sir Bearington!” yelled Lereahl as Tarloch charged the demon. Tarloch’s dinosaur and Eol leapt into the fray too as the black-robed men turned on them. Eol sent an arrow into one of them. The hooded figure hissed in pain and sent two balls of pulsing white magic right back at the elf.
Tarloch smacked the screeching demon’s spiny claws away and shuddered as it lunged forwards and sank its fangs into him. The dinosaur crowed and leapt onto the creature’s shiny back, scrabbling at its eyes. The demon howled and let Torlach go. The bear stumbled back, now muttering low words with healing powers. With the demon distracted and Tarloch no longer bleeding, he was able to slip under the shining carapace. With a powerful blow, the demon’s head came clean off and its body jerked, twitched and rolled over.
Lerehal was now able to assist Frank and Eol. They were faring badly. Eol had been hit just a few too many times with magic missiles. Lereahl took one out in one shot, and then with the next, killed the sorcerer Tarloch’s dinosaur had just pinned to the ground. Eol had just fitted another arrow to his bow when Frank sauntered up and lopped off the last sorcerer’s head. Eol looked devastated as the robed body slumped into the grey grass.
Tarloch roared triumphantly standing over the dead demon. The ursine sound echoed through the forest but soon faded into a dark silence. They all turned quickly, weapons raised as they heard sudden crunchings and rustlings in the scrub behind them. Bow strings tightened and creaked as the sounds grew louder – but the companions sighed in relief as the creature emerged. It was the centaur leader, looking very battered and bloodied. He looked from them to the slain demon and back. His expression was grim but relieved. The companions lowered their weapons.
“Where are the others?” asked Eol.
“Dead,” sighed the centaur and his gaze shifted towards the great black demon again.
“Oh,” replied Eol, his face falling.
“Do not worry. They fought and died well. They shall rest easy knowing that you have slain the root of the evil that has been growing in this forest. We thank you for that. Now the healing process can begin,” the grizzled creature replied, bowing his head.
“We were glad to have helped,” replied Lereahl, bowing solemnly.
They looked around, realising that the shadows were growing lighter. The gloom was lifting. The sun was rising. Already they could hear the chirping of returning birds and the tiny green buds of new leaves on trees.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Hey y'all! This here story is much, much late. I finished it AT our Dungeons and Dragons night. On another note, there has been a group starting up a futuristic version of the game, with space pirates and aliens rather than dragons and demons. I might create a character for those games, so watch out for Passage of the Planeswalkers: The year 87,032A - or something along those lines...

The sight was curious to behold. Every Planeswalker knew that sorcerers were the ones who could keep the many Gates of Llisseth open, but never had they seen one quite like this fellow. He was standing on one leg, his nose almost brushing the ground as he examined what appeared to be a very ordinary patch of rocks. His other leg was extended, barefoot and his big toe dipped beneath the surface of the gate he was stationed at, effectively keeping it open. Mulch, Tarloch, Rathalohse, Lereahl, Jet-Ulfgar and Mange could only stare in confused silence as one-by-one they stepped past him and into the swirling magic of the portal.

There was an odd feeling to the magic as the companions pushed their way through it. It felt as if they were pushing aside a very large, very heavy door. When they had shaken off the remainder of the buzzing white energy, they looked behind them to actually see one swinging shut.
The room was huge and completely square. There were doors identical to the one they’d just passed through on each wall. Keeping in the theme of the huge room, the furniture was also extremely large. Not just that you could consider the cupboard to be roomy, or the table luxuriously large, but they were too big for the travellers. The furniture was made for giants. On the opposite side of the room, there was cliff-face sized curtain on a rail covering an enormous bed, behind which they could hear a deep rumble. Mange, ever bold, leapt with unusual grace for such a tiny figure carrying a bizarre number of weapons, and landed neatly on the huge bedside table. He grasped some of the heavy cloth of the curtain and pulled it back. There was a slight rustle and the deep rumble stopped. Mange had woken the giant sleeping there. He rose with alarming quickness and Mange leapt back down to join his friends. The giant’s skin was a shade of blue reserved for a cloudless winter sky, and he was dressed in the finest robes they had ever seen upon anyone. He didn’t seem angry as he stared down at the six companions – just a little confused.
“What are you doing in my rooms?” came his deep, booming voice. The others looked around at each other, a little lost for words. Finally Lereahl stepped forward, clearing his throat.
“Uh, well, good question-” He was cut off however by Jet. Up until this point, the dwarf had been entirely consumed in consuming a vast mug of ale he had brought with him. Upon noticing the giant, he stopped drinking, raised his large spiked shield and charged him with a fierce battle cry. It did not matter to Jet that they were negotiating quite nicely, for he had a hatred for giants and instinctively wanted o fight them on sight.
Jet’s charge was impressively massive, enough to send the eighteen-foot creature toppling over onto its back in shock. The giant sat up a little in surprise, but then his expression turned to one of anger. With a quick hand movement, every living thing was suddenly floating in the air. It was the strangest battle they had ever experienced. No one could get close enough to hit the giant, and they were all slowly spinning and rotating in the air like grotesque ballet dancers. Mange was the first to overcome the disadvantage of weightlessness. From his pack, he pulled a large glass bottle filled with what looked like plain drinking water. He pulled the stopper out and dumped it on his own head. The cloak that he wore immediately wrapped itself around the halfling, changing colour and shape until a large manta ray hung majestically in the air. The water had obviously been taken from the ocean, activating the strange abilities of the cloak. In this form, Mange was able to flap slowly through the air and nearer to his target. It was the oddest thing to see tiny, scrawny halfling arms bearing a great flaming sword pop from an invisible fold in the manta ray’s belly and slash wildly at the giant. Mange flapped gently out of the way as the giant roared and withdrew a huge morning star from beneath his robes.
Tarloch was near the back of the group. His dinosaur companion, now taller than a man and generally quite intimidating, was squawking unbecomingly and scrabbling the air as it slowly turned upside down. Tarloch himself was concentrating hard on the giant’s weapon, his hands out and soft, powerful words on his tongue. There was a slight hiss of steam as his spell caused the morning star to heat up, but the giant only flinched and kept a hold of it.
Rath was peppering the creature with as many arrows as he could. It was a big enough target, but firing while floating was majorly disorientating. This was due to the fact that with each release, the force would cause him to do a little back flip in the air.
“I am so not helping you guys!” snapped Lereahl. He glared as an arrow whizzed past him. His arms were folded as he drifted through the air. He had been unamused when Jet had attacked the giant so rudely, and as such, was boycotting the fight.
Tarloch had continued to mutter his heat spell and the morning star had finally grown so got that the giant had released it with a growl. Jet took advantage of this, using the great weapon as a ladder to get close enough to do some damage. He yelled as he launched himself at the giant, crashing into its chest with his deadly shield. Mange backed him up, swooping in on manta ray fins and slicing at the hand reaching for Jet. There was a spurt of blue blood and the giant’s little finger went spinning away.
“No! That was the source of my magic!” cried the giant, watching in dismay as the pinky pirouetted away. Then he seemed to shrink in on himself. The life left his eyes and his skin went taught and gaunt. The magic holding them in the air vanished immediately and they and the giant’s corpse fell crashing to the floor. They picked themselves up slowly. Jet grinned and put a foot up on the fallen giant’s arm, like a hunter with a downed beast, and took a great swig of ale. Lereahl dusted himself off, still staring daggers at the dwarf.

“Whoa... What just happened?” asked Rath. They had just finished collecting all the treasures they’d found hidden in the giant’s room and decided which door to go through next. Upon pushing it open, they had all experienced the same sensation. There seemed to be something like a heat blur separating the two rooms and upon crossing it, they found themselves going slower than things that moved on the other side.
“A time paradox...” whispered Lereahl in awe. “It feels like we’re going slow, but really we’re moving normally. It’s the things on this side that are moving fast to us,” he explained to Mange. The barbarian scratched his head slowly and shrugged. There was a screech that made the six Planeswalkers look up. Swooping down from the distant rafters were five strange, incorporeal creatures. They swirled around the companions, shrieking in airy, high-pitched voices, lunging and slashing at them.
“What are they?” called Mulch, fending off a smaller one.
“Ghosts?” offered Mange, slashing at one. The sword passed through the humanoid-shaped heat blur and seemed to rip a hole in it.
“No! They’re not ghosts! They can be damaged!”
“Air elementals,” grunted Jet, throwing himself onto one of the swirling creatures, buffing it out of existence with his shield.
Rath and Lereahl were steadily emptying their quivers at the creatures. Rath was hitting them dead on, puncturing small holes in whatever membrane held the elementals together. Lereahl however, was frustrated at having not hit one yet.
With a great yell, Jet threw himself at the last air element, crushing it into wisps of fine breeze as he stumbled through it, and landed awkwardly in Tarloch’s arms. The buff, tanned man looked down at the surly dwarf with a look of surprise. Jet just glared at him and got back to his feet.

The next room was filled with noise and machinery. All over the walls were pipes and joins and hissing steam. Levers, bells and valves, whistles, dials and gauges, clock faces, timers and even a cuckoo bird adorned what could only be described as a doomsday machine. The thing took up nearly the entire room and seemed to exude an air of hostility.
“Well,” said Mange.
“Huh,” said Rath.
“Oooh!” said Mulch and ran forwards to pull a lever. The others rushed after the pants-less gnome, all yelling at her to stop. But they were too late. The lever was pulled and suddenly the room was full of angry green laser beams. The group cried as they leapt to avoid them.
Angry and slightly smoking, they converged on the gnome.
“What do you think you’re doing?” yelled Lereahl.
“The lever was shiny – I had to try it,” mumbled Mulch.
Lereahl sighed in exasperation. Behind him, Rathalohse was reaching for a valve. There was a strange look of apprehension and wild excitement on his face. He had been a bit like this ever since the Italian Hobo Incident. The resulting fiddling gained him a fireball to the face.
Lereahl had to drag the two meddlers away from the machine.
“Stop playing with it! Haven’t you figured out that it’s dangerous yet?”
His words were drowned out however as Tarloch accidentally brushed a strange brass button. The machine around them began clanking horribly, groaning and straining gears. Lereahl stared at in horror. All of a sudden, there was a huge clang behind them. They whipped around to see that from a large pipe above, a literal ton of gold bricks had fallen. There was absolute silence from the group.
“Let me push that button!” yelled Rathalohse, leaping forwards. He punched the brass button, looking expectantly at the pipe above. Instead, a large blast of fire came billowing out from a nearby spout, singing him again. He stumbled away, embarrassed and coughing ash. Jet was the one to increase the gold pile when he accidentally leant on a blue lever while taking a sip of ale a few seconds later. The clanking and groaning of the machinery produced another, identical pile of gold right beside the first, rendering them all even more speechless.
“Okay people. That is a lot of gold. I think it’s only fair that we should split it evenly among the group. We’ve always done this and I think we should continue,” said Mange. The tiny barbarian’s words were slow and you could see the greed in his eyes.
“No way!” roared Jet, stumbling forwards toward the pile of gold he’d caused. “This is all mine! I braved this ridiculous, menacing slot machine! You want some gold, then push your own buttons halfling!”
Mange glared at the dwarf and raised his sword.
“I’m taking my gold,” he said menacingly.
“Come and get it,” snarled Jet with a smile. The tiny barbarian leapt at the dwarf.
Mulch looked at the two fighters, terrified. In the blink of an eye, she had disappeared between the cogs and pipeworks, hoping that she would be protected in there from the vicious duel. Tarloch, however, looked from the fighters, to the gold, back to the fighters and then to the gold again. His mind made up, he reached over to the nearest part of the doomsday machine and began wrenching bits and pieces off. Cogs and scraps of metal were soon turned into a small cart, into which Tarloch loaded all the gold and ran off with. Lereahl, Rath and the dinosaur followed.
Mange swung and missed. His eyes grew wide as his fiery blade merely skimmed the dwarf’s armour. Jet seized the advantage and smashed the halfling with his shield. Mange screamed as he swung again, dancing around behind the dwarf, but Jet was so stocky and so covered with armour that the blade merely clanged off again. Jet wheeled around, his spiked shield crashing down again and again and the barbarian was knocked to the ground, panting. Mange lifted himself onto his elbows, looking dazed. Jet stood over him, breathing heavily, but smiling beneath his bushy red beard.
“’Twas a good fight,” he said gruffly.
Mange sighed but agreed and let the dwarf help him up. Amazingly, the fight had cooled both their tempers.
“We’ll think of some fair way to split the gold up, don’t worry,” Jet said. Mange grinned.

They caught up with the others in the next room. There was a strange paradox in this room too. As soon as Jet and Mange stepped through the doorway, they found themselves falling towards the ceiling. They grunted and stood up, reorientating themselves to the new gravity. They were all now standing on the ceiling as if it were the floor. All except for Tarloch, who was staring up at them from above – or was it below?
“Why are you still up there?” Jet called.
“Strange effect of being druid. Tarloch is not affected by some things,” he said, shrugging. The doomsday cart, its gold and his dinosaur companion had followed the others, making him look a little disgruntled at being left all alone on the ceiling. They had not much time to contemplate this strange turn of events for they were soon set upon by three of the biggest, strangest looking birds they had ever seen. They were seven feet tall, flightless and each had two long, scaly pairs of legs. Their beaks were long and full of sharp teeth and their oily feathers were murky shades of brown and deep, blood red.
“Achaierai!” called Tarcloch in fear.  They drew their weapons immediately. Not much scared the druid, but if he seemed frightened by these odd birds, then so should they be.
Mange was the first to attack, but failed miserably after tripping over a gold bar. He fell to the ground, a little distracted by the shiny yellow ingots.
Jet whacked one of the creepy birds, sending it stumbling backwards. He smashed it again and black tar-like blood and feathers went flying everywhere.
Tarloch meanwhile was now slowly floating down from the ceiling. His dinosaur companion was calling worriedly up to him in between nipping at the achaierai, and as such was not doing very well.
Mange had got back on his feet and was now dealing the birds swathes of damage. One of them attacked Jet savagely, but he happily turned and mashed it into a pulp.
When the battle was done, the six companions turned and surveyed their surroundings. They seemed to be in the middle of a very large, ornate public garden that strangely, was completely dead. There was not a green twig or a blooming flower anywhere. They all agreed to take a break to clean the horrid black achaierai blood off in the public bathroom visible through the bare tree branches.

Tarloch’s dinosaur was now pulling the enormous cart full of gold. Rathalohse was sitting on the top of the mound, grinning like an idiot. It wasn’t cheese, but it still made him ridiculously happy. The cart also now held two enormous golden dragon statues. They had found them in the dead garden and pulled them from their plinths.
Pushing the next great door aside, they were faced with a dark, misty room. There were pipes on the walls, giving the place the appearance of an old warehouse. In the middle of the room prowled two huge bulls that looked to be made completely of metal.
Tarloch’s dinosaur, now very happy that his master was on the correct side of the room, leapt forward to attack the beasts. Fiery venom spewed from his jaws, showering the charging bulls. It was not very effective.
Jet was next, running at the nearest charging bull, his shield held low and sturdy. There was a resounding clang as the two collided. Jet’s strength and leverage was greater and the metal bull was turned on its side. Jet leap on top of the creature, grinning victoriously. His expression changed though as the bulls roared, releasing a cloud of acrid green gas from their hollow forms. The gas spread eerily through the room and there was a moment of stillness. Jet, still atop the bull he had downed, made a strange, strangled noise as tendrils of stone began rapidly creeping up his limbs. Before they knew it, he, Torlach’s dinosaur and Rath, who was still sitting in the gold cart, had turned entirely to stone.
The others retaliated with fury. Torlach tried to hit the creatures, but was too distressed by the death of his dinosaur friend to shoot straight. Mulch executed an incredibly sneaky attack and arrows pierced the metal bulls with deadly accuracy until finally, the two great metal beasts lay dead, leaking wisps of that horrid green gas. The companions sheathed their weapons and looked dismally at their petrified friends.
“What are we going to do about them?” asked Lereahl.
Torlach stretched his fingers. He was feeling a bit more powerful after fighting these
“Torlach might be able to undo it, but not sure how much energy he has,” the druid said slowly. He raised his hands first to his beloved dinosaur and concentrated hard. The magic trickled slowly over the stony hide, returning life and colour to the reptile. It leapt happily at its master, who smiled broadly. Torlach then turned to the other two statues, and tried to work the magic again. Colour curled over the stunned looking ranger and he sat up, alive and alarmed.
“What happened?” he asked, looking in confusion at the two dead bulls. “How did we win so quickly? All I remember is that gas…”He trailed off as he saw the rest of the group levering the stone statue of Jet into the cart with him.
“Oooh…” he said, understanding.
“Torlach is sorry. He has not enough magic for gruff, red-bearded one,” said the druid, collapsing next to his dinosaur, who licked him supportively.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure we can find a sorcerer in Planeswalker City to un-stone him. He’s a tough dude. He’ll pull through it,” said Mulch, patting the stone. The others nodded and began preparations to teleport back to the city. Rath, who was still in the cart, looked thoughtfully at the petrified dwarf and wondered where he could find a chisel…