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Splitpaw Saga

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Splitpaw Saga

Post by Ronson on Mon Aug 09, 2010 11:21 am

Chapter I - A Message From Below


"The sisal roots are worth twice that price! You're a dirty thief!" Urdam snarled.

The elf remained stoic. "My offer is fair, bruiser. You'll find no one who will pay more."

Urdam cracked his knuckles and furrowed his brow, locking his cold stare upon the scholar. He was taller than the elf and much more imposing, but he knew this tactic was doomed from the start. High elves who are centuries old simply aren't intimidated that easily.

"Fine!" he relented. "I'll take your pitiful offer, Eledran."

"Excellent," the elf replied, handing him the gold. "I am always pleased to acquire rare finds from your side of the world."

"What you pay isn't even worth my time," Urdam scoffed. "If it wasn't for the valuables I come across on my journey here, I wouldn't bother. Fortunately there are plenty of opportunities to obtain artifacts around Antonica that fetch a high price back in Freeport."

"You mean you can find easy marks from which to steal," Eledran countered.

The bruiser shrugged. "My buyers don't ask questions. They know I'm something of a collector of rare finds. Consider this amulet I liberated from its previous owner. Let me show you." He opened his bag and shuffled through the contents, placing a number of items on the counter in front of the alchemist.

A tattered parchment caught the old elf's eye. "What is that?"

Urdam glanced at it. "It's a scroll that a pair of gnomes dug up. They claimed to have found it among some recently unearthed rubble in the Thundering Steppes. I don't read the language, so I was going to see if one of my buyers at the Academy would be interested."

Eledran's lithe fingers gently unrolled the parchment. "Odd," he murmured. "I haven't seen this dialect of gnollish since before the cataclysms."

"I don't run a library," Urdam growled, sensing an opportunity. "If you want to read more, you'll have to buy it."

Eledran frowned, knowing he made a mistake by showing interest. "Very well," he sighed, offering several more gold pieces to the bruiser.

"Hmm," Urdam said, rubbing his reddish beard, "I am sure I could get more from my friend at the Academy."

"Do not press your luck. The scroll is a curiosity, nothing more. If this offer doesn't cover the minor effort you went through to steal this from two tiny gnomes, you can take your things and head back to the realm of your Overlord."

Urdam scoffed and took the coins. "Fine! I didn't want to bother hauling it all the way back with me anyway. I have other clients to attend to, Eledran. See you next month."

The elf nodded as the human turned to leave his shop, but called out before he reached the door. "Urdam, did these gnomes show you where they found this?"

He paused. "I suppose they did."

The elf raised an eyebrow at him. "I'll double the gold I've paid you today if you'll show me the exact spot."

The human gave Eledran a sly smile. "Get your things. And don't forget my gold."


"I wouldn't have guessed an alchemist would own armor of that quality," Urdam mused.

"Do not assume my current profession is the only one I have known," Eledran said. "I have stood in realms you will never visit in your lifetime, and witnessed beings that have not strode upon Norrath in ages."

The bruiser shrugged. "No need to get defensive. I was just saying."

"You're sure it's this way?"

"Positive. We passed the crater mine a while back, and I found the gnomes' camp just over this hill. We should be close." They climbed to the top of a small hill and Urdam pointed toward some rubble. "There."

As they reached the rocks, the elf studied his surroundings. "So much has changed. The terrain is unrecognizable, but the shape of these tusk-like stones seems familiar."

"Care to clue me in on what you're talking about?" the bruiser asked.

"Use those muscles you take so much pride in and help me move these rocks. It looks like tremors might have loosened them."

Urdam crossed his arms. "Forget it. I've brought you this far, but gold or no, I don't lift another finger until you tell me what it is you think we'll find. Just what the blazes was written on that scroll?"

The elf furrowed his brow. "Very well, I suppose you've earned that much. The parchment you gave me was written in the tongue of the Splitpaw gnolls. Have you ever heard of them?"

He shook his head. "I've pounded the hides of a lot of gnolls around these parts, but never that clan."

"No, you could not have. The Splitpaw had a huge den located in the southern part of the Plains of Karana, which is what this region was called before the Rending. Fearing the cataclysms, the Splitpaw retreated into their lair, the entrance of which collapsed in a massive quake. It was assumed they were all dead and buried."

Urdam stroked his beard. "And something in that note makes you think otherwise?"

The elf nodded. "Despite its tattered appearance, the note isn't very old. It looks like part of a journal of some kind, and the writer talks about needing to seek the surface once again. It says the ones from below do not honor their traditions, and wish to eradicate them."

"The ones from below? And they would be..."

"I have no idea. Can we move the rocks now?"

Urdam scowled. "Please explain why I would want to help you dig up an ancient gnoll den that has the potential to unleash some mysterious menace?"

"The Splitpaw gnolls were known for hoarding rare artifacts and treasure," Eledran replied.

Urdam nodded. "Best we start digging, then."

They dug away at the debris, clearing rocks until they saw what almost looked like an archway.

"Yes, this looks right," Eledran said. "Just a bit farther."

"Wait," Urdam said, pausing. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" the elf asked.

"It sounds like someone else moving rocks nearby," the bruiser said, looking around behind them. "But I don't see where anyone could be digging except..." Urdam stopped and looked at the rubble, then at Eledran. He stood and drew his mace and his katar. "Something is coming up from below."

Eledran walked over to his pack and drew his sword. They both stood back and watched. Pebbles and dirt shook loose as rocks were pushed forward from within the ground. Finally a larger rock rolled forward, revealing a darkened opening. All was silent for a moment.

"Be ready," the bruiser whispered. "Here they come."



Chapter II - The Howling in the Darkness

"Are you all right, Urdam?" Eledran asked.

"Aye," the bruiser responded, sheathing his weapons and tending a wound on his arm. "These gnolls fight furiously, as if out of desperation. They seem..."

"Hungry," the elf added.

Urdam nodded. "That they do. Their kin on the surface don't have the same madness in their eyes. Who knows how long these beasts have been trapped here."

"A better question," Eledran noted, "is what has made them come to the surface after all this time."

"In any case, we can't seem to go much farther. The tunnel looks to end in this room."

Eledran looked at the barrels and debris scattered around the fallen gnolls. He pointed up. "I bet we can make it to that ledge up there. Help me move these crates so we can climb them."

They stacked the crates and made their way up to the entrance of another hallway.

Urdam squinted into the darkness. "Do you see anything?"

"I can't see any living creatures," he answered. "But I think I hear fighting up ahead."

The bruiser nodded and drew his weapons. Eledran whispered an incantation that summoned a small wisp of light to guide them further.

After cautiously following the twisting tunnel, they could see lights flickering ahead of them. The yelping of gnolls and the crackle of arcane magic surged in the air. They turned a corner and saw the battle before them. A single figure was encircled by gnolls, keeping the savage beasts at bay with her arsenal of spells.

"Looks like she could use a hand," Urdam muttered. He charged ahead and swung his mace hard against the head of one of the gnolls that had circled behind her.

The woman spun around, revealing her dark blue skin and pale hair. "I don't need help, human," she said as she called forth a green haze that caused the remaining gnolls to double over in pain.

Eledran chuckled as he drew his sword and entered the fray. "So much for your grand rescue, Urdam."

The bruiser scoffed as he continued his assault. "The least you could do is thank us," he insisted.

An arc of purple energy shot out from the Teir'Dal's fingertips and knocked the gnolls to the ground. "I'll thank you if you show me the way out of this miserable cave, but these dogs are barely worth the effort."

The high elf sheathed his sword as the last of the gnolls fell. He walked up to her and nodded slightly. "I am Eledran, and this is my associate, Urdam. How did you get find your way into this place? I thought we were the first to enter."

The dark elf crossed her arms with annoyance. "The name is Yessina. I didn't ask to come here, believe me! I was traveling near Thundermist Village with my companions when we noticed a strange cairn of stones along the road. We were investigating it when these odd gnolls suddenly appeared and grabbed me. The next thing I knew, I was in this place. Some dwarf named Bruggo was here as well, though he was too injured to make another attempt to escape. I left him and struck out on my own. Weren't you two abducted like I was?"

"No," Eledran replied, "but we seem to share a common interest in leaving here. May I suggest we travel together?"

"It would be our honor to protect you, my lady," Urdam said with a smile.

She rolled her eyes. "I'll protect myself, thug. You just make sure these curs don't lay their paws on me."

Eledran chuckled again and pointed ahead. "Let's try this way."

They followed a winding series of tunnels, dispatching bands of gnolls that they met along the way. Finally they approached a larger opening, a wide cavern with pools of water reflecting the light of smoldering torches.

"It looks clear," Urdam said, striding forward.

"Hold on," Yessina cautioned. "Let's check the area before we--" but Urdam was already marching ahead.

"He doesn't take direction well," Eledran noted.

"You should learn to better control your pets," she hissed, rising to follow him.

They began to walk forward, but Urdam stopped short. "Something is coming," he told them.

"Brash fool!" Yessina growled, warding her allies against danger. "It sounds like more than a single something."

The sound grew louder and the ground seemed to tremble a little. Suddenly dozens of the dark-furred gnolls came scurrying around a corner charging toward them.

"Here we go!" Urdam called out, his weapons ready. But the gnolls ran past them, barely noticing their presence.

Eledran turned to watch them go. "That was peculiar."

"Guess we scared them off," Urdam said with a wink.

"They weren't running from us, bruiser. Which means something else is coming," Yessina told them.

Another noise came from the tunnel ahead, and the three turned to face it. From out of the darkness strode five hulking figures wearing massive armor, weapons drawn. The creatures stopped for a moment when they saw the three of them, then resumed walking forward baring their massive fangs.

"Are those things gnolls?" Urdam asked.

"I don't know what they are," Eledran answered, "but we best stand ready."

The huge furred creatures marched toward them as a low growl filled the room.

Somewhere in the distance, they could hear howling.



Chapter III - The Fall of Faroth Mal

"Silence! The bones have spoken!" Seeress Bloodhackle demanded upon her perch in the Splitpaw Den. "The threat below has grown and could reach out into and beyond Splitpaw if it's not held in check! You must gather your forces and invade before it's too late!" With a clang of weapons and a roaring cheer, the members of Ascendance had heard enough and were ready for battle.

Small bursts of glowing blue light shined as each adventurer appeared within the terraporter ring. After time enough for their eyes and orientation to adjust, they peered out into the adjacent cavern. An army of Underpaw gnolls was gathered below their commander, readying themselves for war. After a thunderous speech, Commander Spliteye and his army began their march to the halls above, but before they could make their exit, a shadowy figure plunged a dagger deep into Spliteye�s trusted dreadsnout Scald. The war was on. Flashes of steel and fur danced above the bloodied floor as Ascendance parried wave upon wave of the Underpaw until the Commander himself lay facedown in a shallow pool of red.

As the dust settled and Ascendance started dividing their treasures, a muffled clap grew louder in the cavern. From the far side of the cavern came the largest gnoll anyone had ever seen: Faroth Mal, leader of the Underpaw gnolls. Faroth Mal eyed the adventurers with a quiet smirk as he strode up the ramp to stand in front of his throne.

"How dare you enter my realm and insult the true children of Brell!" Faroth Mal spat with a maniacal hiss. "We must purify Splitpaw by cleansing it of the cannibalistic filth that lives within! Your presence is an affront to our purity; you must perish as well!"

Faroth Mal sprang forth, and in the same instant, gnolls erupted from the niches among the cavern. Holding their own, Ascendance began to mince their foes intrepidly. Through teamwork, organization, and a strange clue brought forth by a scout in the guild, Ascendance slowly worked Faroth Mal down until his energy failed him. Rothgard was there to ensure that revenge was served for the death of Cheeb.

The walls bellowed, futilely attempting to stay in tact. The ground began to shake furiously and the walls to wrench apart. Rocks cascaded from above, threatening to crush and skewer the triumphant adventurers. As soon as Faroth Mal fell, the caverns began to collapse. It was now a race to get out--a race for their lives. Ascendance began to scale the collapsed rocks and broken tusks towards the surface with desperate haste. As they moved through a final chokepoint, the ceiling let out its last shudder and buckled. With daring resolve, the remaining members of Ascendance leapt into an open cavern while the rocks filled in behind them.

The tremor stopped, and the guild looked around at each other, stunned. "So much for loot," Kumek laughed and began dusting him/herself off. "Not funny!" Jedette scorned, "I'm sick of risking my skin for" "Look!" shouted Drave. A mysterious glow surrounded them. Salvatorre reached forward to touch it in disbelief. "It's gold! Wagonloads of it!" Ascendance had stumbled upon the fabled treasure vault of the Underpaw Clan. The rest is history.

Ronson

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