Zyf's Journal Part 25
What a Load of Bull!
In the under-city of Chandegar, the great port city on the Western Coast of the Avitian Empire, there exists a shadow world inhabited by a population of greedy merchants, petulant gods, evil slavers and fantastical beasts. Lady Amalia Tibria, nee Retrovir, has come here to find her mother and three sisters who were captured and sold into slavery during the family’s recent demise at the hands of House Volund. With Amalia comes Zyf’s Talons, adventuring party extraordinaire, who are led by the stalwart Zyf, devoted cleric of Myn, and minimally backed by the tender-hearted half-orc barbarian, Smuj, the overly emotional elven arcanist, Quintain Galjohnt, the worrisome sorceror, Flann ui Phuirrisceagh, the easily distracted loremaster, Vaerius Scientia, and the neutral-bordering-on-chaotic-evil, Emma Carlyon.
The party has tracked Amalia’s family members to this deep dark place and has found that they are in the clutches of the mysterious Grey Lady; she whose name is only spoken of in whispers! In her great stone obelisk abutting the treacherous underground river, she performs perverse experiments on the living and the dead alike. None cross her path and come away unscathed, few come away at all. How’s that for intimidating?
Across from the main entrance of the imposing granite monolith, on the curb of the narrow dirty thoroughfare carefully hidden in a dank alley, stands mighty Zyf surveying the surrounding area, his steel grey eyes taking in every detail of the austere stone walls. His dwarven senses attuned to any vulnerability in the great stony exterior, but they find no flaw in the smooth enchanted rock.
“One entrance,” he says to the rest of the party gesturing to the large double doors, “no windows, no roof access, and probably a cellar or caverns beneath. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was magically warded, too. It’s certainly guarded though as evidenced by the pair of snorting beasties out front.”
Towering a full eight feet tall, a pair of brawny bovine behemoths brazenly stand on either side of the ornate wooden doors daring any intruders to attempt entrance. Their bullish demeanors, hulking humanoid bodies and glittering great horns do little to convey a sense of welcome.
“We need to get past those minotaurs,” offers Quintain. “First, I’ll go invisible then I’ll fly to the top of the tower and search for an entrance via the chimney there. Then, I’ll make my way inside where I’ll sneak past the interior guards until I finally reach the ground level whereupon I’ll open the doors for the rest of you to come in.”
“And, how exactly does that get us past the minotaurs?” asks Zyf. “Sure, the door is open, but I don’t think they’re going to be amenable to us just walking in.”
“Hmm, good point,” concedes Quintain, “what we need is a diversion of some sort. First, I’ll change self so I look like a local fish monger, then I’ll go up to the minotaurs and ask them for help carrying my fish to the docks. Then, when they’re busy helping me, the rest of you sneak through the door and wait for me on the inside. Once I give them the slip, I’ll make my way back here via a circuitous route and rejoin the party.”
“Why would they leave their guard duty to help you?” asks Zyf.
“Hmm, good point,” concedes Quintain again, “what we need is a plan that is so cunning, so clever, that it makes use of my plethora of utility spells while completely ignoring the obvious solution of just running up there and killing them.”
“Great,” sighs Zyf. “Emma, what have you got?”
“I’ll pay a few of the low lifes around here to go taunt the cow men. That should separate them at least and we can deal with one a lot easier than two.”
Moments later, a trio of ragged bravos approaches the towering steak sandwiches and yells insults at them while hurling rocks. One of the minotaurs turns and charges, chasing the rabble down the street and into the crowd.
“Smuj, go pick a fight,” says Zyf.
“Hullo Mister Cow-man! Smuj likes your horns very much. Give them to Smuj, please, so Smuj can have your horns.”
In response, the great minotaur raises his over sized axe and prepares to separate Smuj’s head from his body, but the half-orc is a tad quicker and his fiery spear finds a new home in the minotaur’s solar plexus which does not, in fact, improve its disposition very much; fortunately, Emma’s arrows strike true in the huge beast’s neck felling it on the doorstep.
Amalia and Zyf drag the great hulking corpse to a nearby secluded alley and the party heads inside where they find three young women dressed in acolyte’s robes cowering in the corner.
“Ooo! Ladies! But, they have no horns for Smuj; so, ladies, youse can goes unless youse wants to stay and give Smuj kisses and humpings for beating up the cow man. Look! Smuj has the horns so now Smuj can be the guard and you can be the treasure and Smuj will protect youse and youse can give Smuj the kissings and the humps!”
The women look to each other and with the briefest of nods decide that leaving is the better part of valor and they scurry out.
“Look at this ostentatious display of wealth!” Exclaims Emma smashing a nearby priceless vase. “This could easily be converted to a more useful purpose like financing my war college or supporting my architectural endeavors!” She continues as she throws a statue through an oversized mirror. “Way to be greedy, you Grey Bee-otch!” She shouts to the empty room while defecating on the immaculately polished marble tile floor and then wiping her soiled arse with an expensive looking silken tapestry.
“Um, we should probably press on,” says Zyf quickly climbing the circular stairs to the next level.
The stairs ascend to a small room with two doors, one leading west, the other north. Zyf, with a grace that belies his dwarven heritage, heads to the northern door and opens it. Within stand a quartet of statues, young women all, their arms outstretched holding brass bowls each with a different repulsive stagnant liquid. No stairs are in view so the party moves to the western door.
“Be wary,” says Zyf, “those figures in the first room have aroused my suspicions. I cannot guess as to what precisely is behind this door, but that was no ordinary statuary.”
Zyf opens the door and steps into the long narrow room. Grotesque icons fill the room; combinations of two, three, even four different creatures joined in horrible poses sit atop low stone pedestals. Here, a creatue that is part hawk, part monkey with four asses; here, one that is part hamster, part shark, part oyster with four asses; there, one that is part rooster, part snake, part…COCKATRICE!! It’s glowering red eyes affix themselves to Zyf and Quintain!
“Whoa, I’m suddenly way hungry. Quintain, can you summon me some barbecue potato chips, ice cream sandwiches and gummi worms while I play Madden on the Xbox? Oh, and order a pizza with italian sausage and extra cheese. I know a guy that makes the best freakin’ pie. Where was that…?”
“Yeah, Big Z, pizza would be so totally awesome right now! I’m famished. This orange soda is the bomb, too. The color is so, like, orange. Whoa! Orange soda and it’s orange! That’s totally messing with my neurons and shit.”
“Crap!” says Emma. “They’re stoned! Die cockatrice!” Thwip! Thwip! Thwip! (Editor’s Note: ‘Thwip’ is the precise sound an arrow makes as it collides with the feather covered flesh of a cockatrice.)
“Bogus!” says the cockatrice as its eyes close for the final time.
“Vomit!! Smuj will help you!” And with that, the great lumbering oaf uses his uncanny barbarian speed and sprints fifteen feet to the other room where he takes one of the bowls of stagnant water and returns. “Here! This will help!” And he upends the cold bacteria laden water over Quintain’s head.
“Smuj!? What the eff, dude? That is so totally uncool! But, your quick thinking has released me from the spell of that loathsome beast. Now, we must fetch another cistern to release dear Zyf from the clutches of that most foul fowl. Assist me!”
“No need, elf,” says their fearless leader. “As you can see, my superior dwarven constitution and innate resistance to harmful magicks has returned my faculties to me. Now let’s move on to the next floor. And, never use such a terrible pun in my presence again.”
Zyf’s Talons and the Lady Amalia ascend yet another turning, twisting stair case eventually arriving on the third floor. Against the far wall is an alabaster altar to the vile trickster goddess Ma’at, who often takes on the shape of a hideously deformed human female with the, (ugh), head of a vixen. (Just writing that made me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I mean, really, what goddess would take on such a disgusting, abhorrent aspect as a fox head atop a human body? Blech! I’m going to have nightmares for weeks just imagining such a nauseating thing. Myn preserve me!)
Anyway…the altar is unadorned save for a small depression on the top. It is obviously a portal, but to where? Where indeed? Quintain, ever the impetuous one, races forward and sticks his hand into the depression. Explosive runes, surprisingly, do not go off for a change; rather, his form fades from view and he is gone; his smile of figuring out ‘how the door’ works lingers like the bizarre grin of a cheshire cat.
Lady Amalia then steps up to the altar saying, “I’ve come this far for my family, what’s one more step?” And places her hand in the depression as well, disappearing as well.
“Hey! Where’d Vomit go?” asks the ever loyal but not very observant Smuj striding toward the altar. “Are you hiding behind here wit the purty lady?” Leaning forward to peer over the altar, his meaty hand casually brushes by the depression and he vanishes.
Emma shrugs and performs the ritual as well leaving mighty Zyf alone in the abandoned temple. For just a moment he lingers, then approaches the altar. Offering a silent prayer to Myn, he places his hand into the depression.
Zyf arrives in a fog enshrouded room. Silhouettes surround the mighty dwarf, huge misshapen shadows, threatening his personal space. “This will not do,” thinks the unflappable dwarf. ((BLADE BARRIER)) Suddenly, a wall of silver blades encircle him, cries of agony fill his ears and he knows he is protected by the living will of his goddess. Noises, that before were a mish-mash of cacophony, start making sense. There is Quintain. Near him, Emma. Amalia sobs softly; she is injured! Foul beasts of the Grey Lady! Her cries of despair touch the cleric for he is currently unable to see through the arcane gloom that covers the area.
Quintain: “Emma, come here.”
Amalia: (sob sob sob)
Smuj: “Show yerself! Come on now. Smuj wants to have a chat.”
Noises from the other direction: “Snort, snort, snort!”
Other noises from the other direction: “Hiss, hiss, hiss!”
Zyf hunkers down within his castle of spinning death and peers into the gloom. There! The fog is swirling a bit in that direction, but friend or foe? “Argh, dam this accursed fog!”
Quintain: “Was that Zyf?”
Emma: “Oh, thank the gods!”
Amalia: (sob sob sob)
Smuj: “Yay Zyf! Now there will be fun for Smuj!”
Noises from the other direction: “Snort, snort, Zyf?”
Other noises from the other direction: “Hiss, Zyf, hiss, hiss, hiss, Zyf, hiss, generous lover, hiss, hiss, hiss.”
A flatulent gust of wind (“Sorry,” yells Smuj) whips through the area and it turns out to be a rather small stone room; on one side, Zyf’s Talons with Amalia bleeding profusely, on the other, a towering brute of a minotaur who makes the behemoths at the doors above look like corn fed calflings being prepped for slaughter as veal, also, a feminine humanoid figure wrapped in dusty grey bandages wielding a wicked looking bow, her head covered with snakes, her eyes a malevolent green, her…wait, were those snakes? Ack, MEDUSA!
“Foul creatures!” says Zyf standing upright in his pillar of gleaming blades staring directly at the snake-haired wench laughing at the feeble attempt of the medusa to make him hard. (pause…) Moving on: “We have come for the family Retrovir. Delay us no longer and we will cease aggressions, but oppose us and face the consequences of your actions. I will not warn you again.”
The words of the eloquent dwarf fall on the ears of the gargantuan minotaur but find no purchase. Whether the concept of surrender is beyond its comprehension or whether it is lost in the blood-lust of its kind, it matters not, and it charges the stationary dwarf right through the exceptionally powerful spell (now rolling 11d6 damage). Its size and fierceness give it supernatural toughness as it tries to grab the extraordinary cleric seeking to throw him out of the embrace of Myn’s grasp…to no avail for Myn is the goddess of travel and she has not abandoned her child this day for Zyf always wins his grapple checks with hulking brutes.
“My turn cretin,” announces the dwarf and with the merest flick of his granite like forearm, he pushes the beast back (another 11d6 damage) while casting a spell at the cowering medusa in the corner ((WALL OF STONE)) imprisoning her for eternity.
Bellowing in rage at its mistress’s entombment, the minotaur comes on again, this time lowering its head seeking to gore the ridiculously awesome Zyf. Again, the creature is rebuked. With the power of his dwarven ancestors coursing through his veins, Zyf stands firm! The beast screams in fury! Its powerful human thighs push against the floor, its barrel-like chest works like a smith’s bellows, its rune laden horns seek to pierce his armored defenses (yet another 11d6 damage). Zyf shifts his weight, pivots like a ballerina from the Bolshoi ballet and throws the great minotaur over his hip in a perfect judo toss where it lands amidst the swirling blades on the other side (and still another 11d6 damage) where Zyf holds it in place until it ceases moving.
Fifteen minutes later*, Flann and Vaerius arrive to a festive barbecue where the special of the day is beef ribs, ribeyes, and freshly ground hamburgers.
(* For details on what happened during those fifteen minutes, go to THIS page!)
Check out chapter 26 of Zyf’s Journals!
Or, just go here and see them all.