Dungeons & Dragons - Return of Elemental Evil
Hiya, fellow D&D fans! Guess few of you ever expected to see me in this section, and instead, here I am with a story inspired by the most famous roleplaying game in the world! Dark shadows are gathering over a world in which creatures from all manner of places and legends live alongside each other... and an equally unusual party will be tasked with trying to understand what lies behind the whole mess, and put a stop to it once and for all!
These starting chapters should introduce the party, and will contain statistics for the characters as they are introduced! Sure, that means we'll have to wait a little before getting to the actual story, but just be patient, and I'll get to that too!
For now, I just hope these snippets are interesting enough! Of course, reviews are always welcome!
D&D and all related trademarks are not mine, they belong to the late Gary Gygax, Wizards of the Coast, and all that jazz. This story has been written for simple amusement, and I'm not going to earn any money from it.
With that said, enjoy!
Chapter 1 - Felzahn
The sacrifice room was dark and unsettling, its only illumination coming for lit-up torches on the walls, throwing ephemeral lighting on the altar and the walls... and in the background, a group of hooded adepts was singing an haunting cacophony as they knelt down only a few feet away for the dais. The whole scene was truly terrifying, especially for the small figure clad in rags that had been tied in front of the altar, bearing visible signs of abuse on his thin, tear-stained face as he looked around in desperate search for something, anything that might allow him to get free and escape. But it was all in vain - the ropes tying his wrists and ankles were to tightly wound, and even if he actually managed to get free, there was nowhere he could have run. He knew nothing of that horrible place the cultists had taken him to, a few days ago... and now, even his perception of time was skewed, and he didn't know how many dayas it had been. He could only stand there, hoping for a miracle to happen at the last possible moment to save him from a grisly, inevitable fate...
"The time has come, my faithful!" another hooded figure, dressed in a yellow tunic that was stained in blood from the countless sacrifices he had taken part to, thundered. The unholy chanting grew stronger, unnaturally reverberating through the room, and the light of the torches became stronger, revealing an horrific decoration right behind the altar - a monstrous face looking like a human face mixed with various beasts, sculpted in black marble, whose jaws were wide enough to accomodate a whole human! It was probably a symbol of whatever monstrous creature those cultists venerated... and the child tied to the altar curled up into a ball, as if this could save him anyway...
"The mighty Moloch, our lord and master... beseechs His tribute, which we will offer to Him here and now! A young life, a flower yet to bloom... his innocent soul and his warm blood shall satiate the Eater, will ingratiate us, His disciples and humble servants to Him!" the evil cleric exclaimed with mad zeal, as he unsheathed a sharp dagger from one of his sleeves. He took his hood off with the other hand, revealing a thin face with a curly moustache and short black hair, and sporting a tattoo of a pair of bloody jaws on his forehead, right between the eyes. "Rejoice, my faithful... for this sacrifice will bring the supreme Moloch closer to His awakening... the day where He will take this world as his own, and we will reign at His side as His messangers!"
The fanatics sang louder, in a strange, guttural and unpleasant language that seemed to be coming from the bowels of the earth itself... and the tied-up child began shaking and weeping as the head cultist, slowly and cruelly, walked to him, his dagger held in his right hand. The man crouched down towards his victim, almost affably, and grabbed the child's chin, forcing him to look up. That was when the young victim managed to find it in himself to pray for his life, uttering a few shaky words to the evil priest. "N-no... please... I d-don't wanna... d-die..."
The faux friendly smile on the man's face grew just a little bit wider. "Alas, child... this is not to be. You see... your duty is to quell the mighty Moloch's endless hunger, He chose you as His repast, and He will not settle for anything else. But... do rejoice, for your soul will join the mighty Moloch in the Abyss itself, where you will be able to forevermore sing His praises! Does that... not give you joy?" he asked, completely ignoring the young boy's terrified expression. He seemed to have even lost the will to prey...
"That's right. Do not bother preying to your petty, pitiful deities. They are powerless before the glory of Moloch the Eater." the cleric said, bringing his dagger up. "And now, young one... your throat. That is the place from where your rich crimson blood shall flow to wet our lord's lips."
The man took aim, deliberately prolonging his victim's terror as the cultists' mad chanting reached its peak... and when the priest was sure he had found the right place, he reared his hand back...
Just as he was about to inflict the lethal thrust, the priest screamed in agony and fell to the ground convulsing in pain, while all the other acolytes interrupted their chanting and rise to their feet with horrified, indignant screams. A tall and muscular figure had burst into the room, reaching the cleric and striking his side with a large blade mounted on a stick, inflicting him a terrible wound and stopping him from killing the innocent child who had been tied to the altar!
"That bastard god of yours wants blood, huh?" the newcomer growled in indignation, in a loud and snarling voice. "Fine. He can have yours."
"W-What?" the injured priest muttered, his hand tightly pressed upon his wound as he tried to stem the bleeding, taking a good look at the newcomer: he was a tall figure, both lithe and filled with muscles. Had a hyena been able to stand upright and be more than six feet tall, it wouldn't have been very different from him: his lightly pointed ears, his maws filled with pointed fangs, and covered in dirty marroon fur, the mighty-looking warrior was wearing black boots and dust-covered travelling clothes, over which he wore a studded leather jacket. His gloves hands were holding a huge battleaxe, its vicious-looking blade dripping with the evil cleric's blood. There was no mistaking it - it was a gnoll, one of the ferocious race of marauders who had been preying on humanity since time immemorial! However, there was clearly something different about this particular one: his eyes shone with an intelligence and a force of will that was hard to find in those creatures, who were for the most part lazy and dull-witted. And then, to see a gnoll actually helping out a child in need was most unheard of!
"You will not harm this child." the gnoll growled, threatening the rest of the acolytes with his blood-dripping greataxe. "Stay back, and I will not harm you. But if you try and stop me, it won't end well for you!"
"Ugh... you dirty fleabag..." the wounded cleric stammered, trying to regain enough of his bearings to cast an healing spell. "You... have interrupted a sacred ceremony and blasphemed against the great Moloch the Eater! Your punishment shall be most atrocious... you shall be torn apart, and your soul eternally masticated by our lord's thousandfold mouths! Get that blasphemer! Break him! I want to see his guts spilled on the floor!"
With maddened screams, the cultists drew short swords from their vestiments and charged head-on against the gnoll, who wasted no time placing himself between them and their intended victim. With a skilled feint, the humanoid hyena dodged the first lunge and brought his axe around in a vicious roundabout blow... and one split second later, the attacking acolyte let out a chopped-off scream and fell, his abdomed split open by the greataxe's curved edge! Then, with unsuspecting speed, the gnoll turned to another enemy, who was trying to backstab him, and struck him square in the face with the greataxe's handle, before finishing him off with a single slash! In a few seconds, under the disbelieving eyes of Moloch's worshippers, two of the cultists were left dying on the floor... and the remaining three, in their sudden fear, decided that their lives were more important than their cause, and dropped their weapons before retreating to the back of the room.
"You cowards! You fools!" the higher priest bellowed, though he was just as scared as the rest of them. "He's all alone, and there are still three of you! What are you waiting for? Slay him!"
"I don't think you have much leverage left on them..." the gnoll answered with a sarcastic smirk, glaring intimidatingly at the three remaining cultists, and then at the cleric. "Well, I'll ease their fears right now. They're just minions, no need to spill their blood. You, on the other hand... you were about to slit that innocent child's throat. That abomination you worship would have rewarded you for that, right? In this case... there will be no mercy for you!"
The terrified priest tried to retreat to a corner... then, knowing he had no way to escape, he tried one last, desperate resort. "Ugh... a curse befall ye, scum of the forest! In the name of Moloch... I CURSE THEE!" he exclaimed with all the voice he had left, as he raised his right hand, which was enveloped in a rolling cloud of black miasma... and then cast an unholy spell against the gnoll, who widened his eyes for a moment as he struggled to resist it! The demon worsipper smiled sadistically, expecting the hyena-like warrior to drop down and start screaming in pain... therefore, he was understandably shocked when the gnoll, after seemingly failing to resist for a second, stood on his feet and shrugged off the worst of the spell! He was so shocked, in fact, that he could not react in time when the gnoll got in front of him, lifted his greataxe in the air and, with a warlike yell, swung it down upon him!
"Here's what I do with your magic tricks! Die!" the gnoll roared. The deadly blade fell and struck the evil cleric in his chest, cutting through the flesh and shattering his ribcage... and the demon worshipper let out an agonized scream that soondissolved into a gurgle, before collapsing in a pool of blood as thegnoll coldly yanked his weapon out. As the evil cleric weakly thrashed about in his death throes, the gnoll lifted his axe again and brought it down on the priest's neck, separating the head from the rest of the body.
A shocked silence fell as the evil priest's decapitated head rolled on the floor, and the rest of the body shuddered and stood still. One second later, the gnoll raised his glance and ferociously glared at the rest of the cultists, stopping them before they could even take one step.
"Any of you wants to die, just do something stupid." he growled.
Nobody took a single step forward any more, and the gnoll nodded in satisfaction and took a roll of rope from his backpack, before walking up to them and starting tying them up, without them even trying to oppose him. "Anyway, don't worry... the king's soldiers should be here real soon, and they'll lock you in some damp dungeon. A better punishment than you scumbags deserve, if you ask me." he stated, before turning to the still-tied child. Turning all of a sudden a lot nicer, the gnoll nodded to him in a reassuring manner. "It's alright now, kid. We're getting out of this stinking place."
Still scared, the child tried shrinking back, but immediately calmed down as the enormous gnoll bent protectively down on him. "Don't worry, I already dealt with the rest of these fanatics." he stated. "But now we really have to split. The king's soldiers will be here shortly, and I'm not exactly getting along with them..."
"T-thanks... thanks, Mr. Gnoll..." the child thanked as the gnoll carefully took a dagger out of his boots and cut the ropes holding him to the altar. Finally free, the child accepted the gloved hand the gnoll extended to him and stood up, shaking the kinks off his knees. When they were sure everything was under control, the gnoll and the child ran back through the damp corridor the saviour had come from , taking several turns until they finally reached a large staircase that brought them up, once again under the light of the sun! Breathing a sigh of relief, the child shielded his eyes from the light he had almost lost hope to see again, while the gnoll nodded and placed his battleaxe on an holder on his back.
"It's done, kid. You're safe now. Just wait here and the soldiers will take you back to the village." the humanoid hyena stated, before beginning to walk away. However, he stopped in his tracks when the child called after him to ask him a question...
"Hold... hold on a second, warrior! There are a few things I'd like to ask you..." he said, and when the gnoll stopped and looked at him in curiosity, the child cleared his throat and went on. "Thank you... you really saved my life! But.. why did you do it? Mom always told me... that gnolls are cruel and thirsty for blood..."
The gnoll smiled, but it was a bittersweet one. "And she's right. Many of my race are that way. My tribe... was just an exception to the rule. Who knows, maybe they could have been an example to the others." he criptically stated
"Oh? And where's your tribe, right now?" the child went on with painful innocence. The gnoll felt a pang of pain, but managed to hold his emotion in as he answered.
"I wish I knew, kid." he answered. "Maybe what good they did was not enough, and they're in the Abyss now, getting boiled in the Lake of Blood. Or maybe some god took pity on them and brought them to fight alongside the Valkiries in Ysgard... I really don't know. And now... sorry, I really have to go!"
The gnoll turned again and entered the forest, disppearing from the child's sight... but before going away, the hyena-like warrior stopped for one more time and answered to the other question. "Oh, and by the way... my ame is Felzahn. And my mission... is to destroy all those who worship devils and demons!"
Then, a sound of moving leaves accompanied the fierce and noble gnoll as he went deeper into the woods...
TO BE CONTINUED...