The Evermoors were hot and humid as the three travelers and dire wolf slowly made their way through it. Their feet squished through the muddy ground, and their fiery weapons were enough to keep some of the smarter trolls at bay. While it had only been an hour, Drizzt had noticed that the whole time Killik's rapier was lit with blue fire that the fey'ri's birthmark glowed with an odd light.
"Is it normal for your birthmark to do that?" the ranger asked as he kept an eye out for trouble.
"Been happening for as long as I can remember, so I believe it is." Killik said, also keeping a look out. "I think it's to show Khrima is helping out or something."
"That… is not very sensical." Drizzt commented and resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"Drizzt, sir," Kalandyn then said with a sigh, "Best to drop the subject now, since trying to figure out how Khrima and Killik's weird bond works, is like trying to figure out why people like making advice or answers to questions so vague or cryptic."
With that, the group remained silent as they kept moving through the moors, the occasional fight with a troll stupid enough to approach them ending quickly thanks to the fiery weapons they held. Argryn also showed that he was smart enough to use the blade in his mouth by slashing a pair of trolls that tried to sneak up behind them, the flaming falchion it had being quite useful as Kalandyn was relieved that the dire wolf came along after all. At one point however, the blue skinned ranger noticed a set of footprints ahead of them, and also noticed something else.
"Killik, Drizzt, do these footprints seem strange to you two?" he asked, and when both fey'ri and drow came over to look at them with Argryn guarding their backs, the three adventurers saw the same thing. The foot prints were indeed strange, with the right print looking like the foot of a bird while the other foot seemed to be that of a goat. The fact that there was only one set of prints and being made by two completely different creatures was puzzling to the three as they tried to figure out what made them.
"We should probably ignore them." Killik said, crossing his arms, "for all we know it may be a… Khrima?! Where are you going off to?!" the fey'ri then ran ahead, Drizzt, Kalandyn and Argryn following as well as it chased the bird spirit visible only in his eyes. Killik also noticed that the phoenix was flying along the trail they discovered, and heard the spirit chirping wildly as it flew. "What do you mean the trail is heading to where we need to go? The chances of that happening are too high for it to be possible!"
As the fey'ri continued to argue with his spirit companion, Drizzt, Kalandyn and Argryn only heard the fey'ri's half of things as they continued the chase. Due to all the noise however, the group were attacked by more and more trolls, but they still managed to defeat them thanks to the weapons they had gathered, Killik occasionally sheathing his daggers and pulling out a rag with his free hand, and stuffing it into a bottle of oil held in his tail. Using Khrima's power to light the oily rag while his tail held the bottle and making it into a grenade, the fey'ri would then throw the bottle at any large groups of trolls they ran into. Drizzt felt that this was going too easily for them, but considering the circumstances, also felt that wouldn't be a bad thing this time. As they continued following the trail, the group soon realized they were coming to the end of it as when they reached a small clearing in the moors, they were soon sucked into a sinkhole and fell into darkness.
Killik awoke to the smell of burning trolls, and the sound of water dripping on a stone floor. Groaning as he sat up, the fey'ri rubbed the back of his head as he tried to collect his thoughts and figure out how they got there. He soon remembered the trail, and the abrupt stop caused by the sinkhole, and wondered if Drizzt, Kalandyn and Argryn were alright.
That question was soon answered as the dire wolf licked the fey'ri's face, followed by two voices in the darkness.
"Is everyone alright?" Drizzt asked, getting up and activating his infravision to find his swords, the blades still warm enough to be seen thanks to the fire magic cast upon them.
"I'm fine," Killik said, "Kal, are you okay?"
"Yes I am brother." Kalandyn said, both brothers then following suit as their eyes glowed red in the darkness, Drizzt's own eyes shining with a purplish glow. Killik then sighed as he realized something and looking at the dead trolls that were scattered around them.
"Drizzt, Kal, you two and Argryn are going to have to face any trolls we run into down here." The fey'ri said, "While I use our ability to see in the dark, I can't use Khrima's flames. Mainly because my birthmark glows when I use them, and that could end up blinding me when using infravision as well as alerting anything that could attack us."
"In other words," Kalandyn then said, while Argryn let out an annoyed whine, "You're just going to help by disabling any traps we come across since you didn't think to get any fire based weapons for yourself, aren't you?"
"Afraid so little brother." Killik said, coughing a bit. Looking around though, the fey'ri picked up a loose stone from the floor and threw it behind the group, hearing a "thunk" as it hit a wall close to them. "And it looks like we landed in a dead end too, great." The fey'ri then sighed as he walked down the hall, Drizzt however, being unable to point something out.
"Killik, don't you think it is odd that there are burned trolls scattered around us, but you, myself, Kalandyn, and possibly Argryn were unconscious?" the lavender eyed ranger said, causing the fey'ri to look back at him.
"Either Khrima used our connection to manifest enough to protect us from the trolls, or Argryn woke up first and defended us from the trolls. Those are the best theories I can come up with honestly." Killik said, and the group moved down the hall, keeping an eye out for trouble in the ruin beneath the Evermoors.
Click-clop, click-clop. The sound was all that the creature heard as she walked through the ruins. Nothing attacked her as she paused to look down at her legs, her left a half-furry brown goat leg, while her right was a bird leg that had brown feathers a little above the backwards knee, both fur and feathers blending and merging with golden scales as they went up her thigh.
Near her hoof, she spotted a switch, and backed up a bit before kneeling down to press it with one of her taloned hands. With her long, rounded ears, she heard the sound of something whizz over her head, and felt a slight breeze shift her black hair before catching the sound of a loud clang as a blade hit the wall next to her. Another trap taken care of as she continued to slowly move down the hall, her serpent like eyes letting her see in the dark. She cursed her luck in getting lost in the Evermoors after being sent out to deliver a message and then after frightening off trolls with her appearance, managed to get sucked into a sinkhole into an unknown ruin.
"Well, I'm certainly in a mess this time…" she said to herself, swiping her tongue over a fang before gagging and spitting out something that tasted disgusting to her tongue. "Ugh, I really hope that's just swamp muck."
Pausing to take a sip from her canteen, and wash the taste from her mouth, the creature then continued onward, stopping every now and then to disable traps with her talons, before reaching a pair of large doors. She hoped she'd get a chance to take a rest, and just to be sure, closed the chamber doors behind her after she entered.
Elsewhere in the ruins, a quartet of trolls had corned another person who managed to get into the ruins.
"Now, let's be reasonable here!" their unfortunate victim said as the trolls crowded around him, "I'm just trying to get out of this place, and you, you are just mad I somehow stumbled into your hidden temple. I'm not here for any treasures like a silver monkey I swear! Then again, a silver monkey does sound kind of cool…" the being in the glowing yellow robe then shook his head before he got off track.
"No, no, must not lose focus here..." he said to himself, raising his arms and finding them touching one of the trolls on the chest, "Wow… you guys are a bit close, aren't you? And I'm in a dead end, my assistant was killed by you guys, and I think the walls are starting to close in on me. So… um…Think you can give me a bit of space here? Please?"
The four trolls looked at each other, as if they were considering the question, but then they all grunted and started heading closer to their prey, who then let out a sighed.
"I should have seen this coming." He said, "Well, I did try to get you guys to go away… but, it'll have to come to this. BYE!" The trolls then stopped as they heard bones crack, and skin stretch as they watched what they hoped would be a good meal turn into something else covered in scales. Their intended victim, now a mighty dragon, then roared before letting loose a torrent of flame, turning them into piles of ash. Unfortunately, a new problem arose as the dragon tried to move.
He was stuck.
As Killik, Drizzt, Kalandyn and Argryn walked through the ruins, and killing the occasional troll, the group paused as the three beings saw a growing heatsource ahead of them, which after following a roar, turned into a bright blast of heat from a fire.
"Was is a dragon doing down here?" Drizzt then asked, recognizing the roar from previous encounters with a dragon. However, the next thing the group heard was rather unexpected.
"Uh… can someone lend me a hand please? I do not think I planned this all the way through." Someone, most likely the dragon ahead, then said, causing the lavender eyed ranger to look surprised as he wondered for a moment why a dragon would ask for help after letting loose a stream of flame. Killik, Kalandyn, and Argryn however, simply exchanged unsurprised looks.
"Kinder." Both brothers said, while Argryn let out a snort. The two brothers then walked ahead, Drizzt following and warning them to be careful. Of course, upon seeing the dragon itself while peeking around the corner while the brothers showed themselves to the beast, the drow ranger noticed that it seemed to be struggling in the dead end it had occupied, and in the various reds and yellows that showed in his infravision, Drizzt realized that the dragon was stuck. He came around the corner with Argryn right behind him, and noticed the dragon starting to get a bit nervous.
"Killik, Kal, oh thank gods you're here!" the dragon said, "You gotta get me out of this mess, please! I hate tight places, I really do, and I'm afraid I'll be stuck in this spot for the rest of my life if I can't get unwedged! Then again, those trolls did disrespect my personal space, and I did ask nicely to back away… but they seemed to be too stupid to listen…"
"Kinder," Killik said, raising his hands and gesturing to the dragon, "Calm down, if you calm down, you'll be able to shapeshift and get unstuck, okay?"
"Yes Great-Uncle," Kalandyn said next, speaking calmly to the dragon, almost as if it somehow never had the Dragon Fear aura around it, something that seemed impossible to someone like Drizzt.
"Right, right… gotta keep calm…" the dragon, Kinder said, and started taking deep breaths as the brothers worked together to help calm the mighty beast. The last thing Drizzt saw before the dragon polymorphed, was that the brothers then turned off their infravision. The sound of bones cracking and popping, and skin and scales receding then sounded, and before the ranger could say anything, watched as the form of the dragon shrunk to something the size of an elf, and was then blinded as a bright light then appeared in the hallway. Drizzt then turned off his infravision, and once his regular sight returned , his jaw dropped as he saw that the dragon had become a red eyed drow with short, white hair that spiked at the front, and also wore a brightly glowing yellow robe.
"What… who?" Drizzt said, having not expected a dragon to actually turn into a drow, especially since he had once read that dragons when they polymorphed themselves would normally turn human. Unfortunately, Drizzt was about to regret not keeping quiet at this moment.
"Who you ask?" the drow in the robe then said, smiling as he tilted his head downward and closed his eyes. "The name's Kinder, rhymes with Tinder. And I am the mad wizard of the Riftwood, the Mage of Mystery, the Wonderful Wizard, the Master of Mischief, and… dramatic pause… THE GOLDEN DRAGON OF JUCTICE!" As he spoke, Kinder did a variety of strange, and somewhat over the top poses, the last title he listed ending the series of poses with one where he pantomimed aiming a bow at the ceiling, his index and middle fingers pointing outward, while his right knee bent as he leaned forward, his other leg remaining straight and to top it all off, his robe glowed noticeably brighter. Unfortunately, the drow was not yet done talking as he walked over and quickly shook Drizzt's hand.
"It's so good to meet the great Drizzt Do'Urden at last!" he then said, "You're an inspiration to younger drow out there that wish to do good you know, and of course, while I personally don't like the copycats of you running around Faerun, they have been pretty helpful in bettering relations with the good drow scattered among our kind, of course, me and my younger brothers were on the surface long before you, but it may be better you get the spotlight as I don't think I can stand being famous and being hounded by every idiot out there who thinks they can take on a guy waaaay out of thei—"
Thankfully, Kinder was silenced when Killik took out an apple and stuffed it in the wizard's mouth.
"Stop hogging the moment Kinder." Killik said, while Kalandyn snorted a laugh, "Can you explain why you're even in the Evermoors in the first place; in fact, how the hells did you even get here?"
The wizard gave the fey'ri a look as he took the apple in his mouth, and bit into it before sighing and beginning his story.
"Well, truth be told, me and my late assistant, Brian, came to the Evermoors to collect Troll's blood for an experiment… and because I was dead out of that component. Of course, Brian wouldn't listen when I warned him to prepare for the trolls, and he was ambushed pretty early. Sure I memorized enough fire spells to probably melt a part of Icewind Dale, but since wizards are notoriously squishy, I also made sure to run as quickly as possible from the trolls. Of course, I probably should have run out of the Evermoors instead of into a cave and setting up a wall of fire to keep from being followed, but eh, I was panicking at the time due to seeing a guy get ripped to shreds in front of me." He said, finishing with a shrug. "Anyway, while in the cave, I found a hidden door and while my sense of preservation told me not to do it… it was beaten to a pulp by my sense of curiousity and I ended up in these ruins."
As Drizzt was about to speak though, Kinder's hand shot out and his index finger pointed to the ceiling.
"However!" the wizard then said, taking a bit of the apple, "I've been sensing that something else, besides the five of us, and the trolls, are in here as well, and I'm also feeling some old magic coming from somewhere in these ruins as well. Moving on, Care to explain how you boys ended up in here too?"
"Sinkhole." Killik, Kalandyn, and Drizzt said in unison, the three adventurers a bit embarrassed as Kinder laughed.
"Sounds like you boys each rolled a one in your spot checks!" the wizard said, and when Drizzt was about to ask what the wizard was talking about, Killik looked at the ranger and gave him a look.
"Don't ask. Just… Just don't." the fey'ri said, before looking at the wizard. "Anyway Kinder, you should teleport yourself out of the ruins, you're over 400, and you need to watch out for yourself, especially with the trolls running around."
"What? And leave you four alone and going the hard way of getting out of this place?" Kinder said, insulted, "I'd never live with myself if I did that and you three ended up getting killed. Besides, Killik, Kalandyn, your mother would kill me if I told her I just left you down here, and even with Do'Urden's help here, it's not too likely you'll make it out of the Evermoors alive! So, sorry Killiboy, I'm forcing my way into your party and that's final!"
"Fine…" Killik groaned, knowing that when his great uncle started using nicknames, there was no use arguing anymore or else things would just get extremely too silly. "You can come along, just please don't call me 'Killiboy' again, it's just too embarrassing. Besides, if you're going to be with us, there are a few things you need to know."
Killik then explained to the wizard about his mission for the past five years, walking along as he spoke and taking note that the traps they've encountered so far had already been disabled. Killik explained about the Armsworths, the bet with Wraithbone, and the treasures he had gathered so far. Once he finished the story, the wizard crossed his arms and nodded.
"I see, so let me get this straight." The wizard said, causing Kalandyn to groan while Drizzt looked at the blue elf and the dire wolf that let out a whine at that moment with some curiousity. "A waspish woman with wedding worries bashed your brains with a branch, her dear daddy decided to draft you into doing a deed, which led to you bringing a bet between a lord loyal to his little lady, and a crafty count with a coveted collection involving you going on the trail to treasure with a fabulous theme of fiery azure avians as an alias, and now you're on the last leg of this perilous pursuit of ancient artifacts in these run-down ruins with only a mere month left before the closing confrontation?"
Drizzt raised an eyebrow at the alliterative arcanist's summary, finding it incredibly annoying and almost wondering if it was on purpose or not. Kalandyn though, just facepalmed and shook his head while Killik and Argryn looked at the wizard with annoyance.
"What?" Kinder asked, "I love alliteration! It's fun and also quite challenging to think up words to use in it on the fly!"
A silence fell on the group then, as the wizard had unfortunately killed the moment with his big mouth.
"Let's just go." Killik said, grabbing Kinder by the robe and dragging the wizard along while Drizzt, Kalandyn and Argryn followed, the dire wolf snickering at Kinder's treatment. As the group of five headed down the hall, it was relatively peaceful, the occasional fight with a troll nonwithstanding of course. However, Killik kept noticing that the traps were already disabled or set off, and the dusty floor that he saw from the light created by Kinder's robe, showed that it was very recently disturbed. The fey'ri took a look at the foot prints in the dust ahead of them, and noticed they looked similar to the foot prints Kal had found earlier in the moors. In the fey'ri's eyes though, he saw Khrima fly ahead of them, chirping its findings as a way to let Killik know of what was ahead of them, information he relayed to the rest of the group. It was pretty useful in preventing surprise attacks. Soon, the men came across a pair of large, intricately carved stone doors that were closed. However, the layer of dust on the floor showed signs that someone or something had open and closed it beforehand. The group of five exchanged looks, all getting a sense of danger about what might be on the other side, and carefully opened the door.
The chamber on the other side was quite large, the high ceiling remaining unseen despite the white glow Kinder's robe gave off, it was made of stone, and there seemed to be various platforms jutting out of the wall higher up.
What they heard next, caused them to draw their weapons rather quickly.
"Who goes there?!" a rough, screechy voice said, "Who dares to disturb these ruins?"
The doors then slammed shut behind the party, as the voice laughed quite darkly, sending a chill down the spines of the four men and the dire wolf.
"Those who trespass shall be doomed!"
And that wraps it up for this chapter. Who or what was the source of those foot prints Kal found? Who is foretelling doom for our heroes? Will Killik succeed in his treasure hunt, or will the Evermoors be his final resting place? Will Kinder do more alliteration in the future?
Answers shall be revealed as the story continues. In the meantime, read, review, and be patient as the story continues!
Finally, as a bit of a side note, Kinder's summary did involve some googling of synonyms in order to have decent alliteration. As mentioned in the story itself, it's fun but also challenging.