Part IV: Here There Be Monsters
Chapter 16: Cliffs of Dread
Jericho “Striker” Moonscar (Seth) Demon-Blooded Human Duskblade
Daegoth (Trevor S.) Lizardfolk Dragon Shaman
Rapton (David S.) Killoren Cleric
Daelis Eagleheart (David L.) Half-Elf Swashbuckler
Duerak Gildas (Nate) Half-Dwarf/Fire Giant Fighter
Yereth Cloud-Walker (Connor) Minotaur Barbarian/Druid
Monday, October 18th, 1234 AY
The heroes walked along the cliffs of dread, their party a mix of moods.
Amella Venkalie, the once-captain of the Sea Wyvern, was happy, as they were finally out of the Dark Mountain Pass and back by the sea. Her good spirits were evident as they hiked along the twisting path, since she whistled almost constantly, a past time she rarely indulged herself in.
The one thing that seemed to put a damper on her mood was her growing irritation with Urol Furol, the gnome naturalist that seemed to be sickeningly fascinated with the flora and fauna of the Isle of the Dread. The two had been bickering continuously since they had left the tunnel, and it was beginning to grate on everyone’s nerves.
Urol himself was in a fine spirit, and though his attempts to befriend Amella (which led to the bickering) had failed, he became interested in a species of seagulls that nested along the shore of the cliffs.
Avner Meravanchi, the arrogant noble that everyone hated, paled often at the beginning of their journey on the cliffs, still horrified by the mutilation and death of his horse, Thunderstrike, but he got over it soon enough, and was in a relatively good mood.
Kurgol Banetooth, depressed half-orc fist fighter, was as grim as ever, his haunted eyes revealing everything, yet at the same time revealing nothing of what was going on inside his equally haunted mind.
Tavey Nesk, cabin boy and apprentice of Jericho, was in a good mood as well. Ever since leaving the tunnel, he had been showing off his acrobatic skill by performing flamboyant and sometimes dangerous stunts near the cliffs. Hee was getting awfully close to the edge… wherein lay a fifty foot drop onto rocks and then finally into the abyss of an ocean that surrounded the isle.
“Watch yourself Tavey,” the half-elf said with a resolve in his voice. “Don’t be so careless. One wrong step and you could be gone.” To accentuate his point, he kicked a small stone over the cliff, and they watched—for a long while— as the rock flew down towards the bay below and then finally hit with a small splash.
“I’m good enough,” Tavey retorted, though his eyes were uncertain. “I can catch myself if I start to fall.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Daelis said, grabbing the boy’s shoulder. “Stay away from the cliffs, Tavey. And stop showing off. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
Tavey blinked, slightly stunned at the bluntness of the statement. But after a moment, he nodded, and, chagrin showing on his face, walked back towards the opposite side of the party.
Jericho explained that Nimlar was going to scout ahead the rest of the time, providing insights to them of what lay in front of them along the cliffs. Daegoth was also separate from the party, but in the opposite direction. He was looking for a pass that his people used to get the ocean—the pass that Daegoth and his brother had used to perform the funeral rites of their father at sea.
Where his brother had tried to kill him.
He knew that it lay along this cliff wall somewhere, but he had never been very familiar with the area, so finding it might be difficult.
The heroes continued along the cliffs until dusk fell, and then set to the work of making camp. They finished this in a relatively short order, and then assigned watches, letting the spellcasters—Jericho and Rapton—sleep.
Daelis was on watch during the eleventh hour of the night when he heard a sound just outside his range of vision. He started at the sudden sound, drawing his rapier.
That’s when everything went dark.
The pair opened their eyes, but saw only darkness. They blinked a few times, thinking that their eyes were not open somehow, but still could not see a thing.
“Yereth, let’s cast a spell to undo this darkness!” Jericho whispered to the minotaur.
“Good idea,” the bulky druid said, beginning to chant quietly.
Yereth cast a light spell, and Jericho sent off a flare at the same time—and suddenly the darkness was gone, but the light spell seemed to do nothing more than bring the stars and the moon back into the sky. The night remained. The flare shot up into the sky, illuminating for a single instance, a hunched-over humanoid seeming to float in mid-air above their camp.
Then the figure was gone. Vanished.
The others, who had been woken by the occurence, began to react to the situation.Amella ran to Daelis, unconsciously seeking him out because of her fright.
Tavey tried to be brave, but Jericho could tell that the boy was scared out of his wits.
Urol was completely puzzled.
“That doesn’t make any sense, how did this happen?” the gnome asked.
“It was a darkness spell,” Jericho responded. “That’s why our light spell only canceled it out, restoring the area to its normal light.”
“But who—or what—was that thing, and why would it attack us?”
Jericho didn’t have an answer.
It was then that they realized that Kurgol was nowhere to be seen.
“What are you doing?” the minotaur demanded. “Someone just attacked us, we have to stay together!”
Kurgol just nodded, and headed back to camp.
Tuesday, October 19th, 1234 AY
It was 1:00 PM, the next day. The party was walking along the cliffs, when suddenly, Kurgol stopped.
“Something’s not right.”
A rock slide thundered down the cliffs towards their heads.
After it was over and the dust had cleared, Amella looked at the rubble and her eyes widened.
“Daelis,” she said with alarm. “There are skulls!”
Sure enough, there were human and lizardfolk skulls mixed in with the rocks.
“I demand that you put a stop to all this tomfoolery!” Avner demanded, stamping his foot down. “The creepy darkness, and the creepy skulls, it’s starting to look like you don’t actually—”
Daelis slapped him upside the face.
“Keep yourself together!” he shouted.
“Alright, I’m all right…” Avner began to mumble to himself, shaking his head as if to clear his mind. “…My horse died…”
And he walked off.
Urol was even more confused. “Why is this happening?”
There were still no answers.
Kurgol picked up one of the skulls and began to study it, a fact that made the party slightly disturbed.
The heroes searched the ledge up above where the rocks had originated from, using Nimlar, who had just returned from scouting ahead and was alerting by the noise. The ranger found tracks on the ledge, ones that looked ape-like.
The tracks showed no sign of leaving or arriving in the area.
The party continued on along the cliffs until the evening, when they realized that Nimlar had yet to return and update them on the road ahead. Usually he met them when they set up camp for the night, but the ranger did not come back, and the night came and went. The morning dawned, and still Nimlar was nowhere to be found.
He was missing.
The party kept going, not knowing what else to do. They came to an area with ledges above and below them, creating a set of what seemed like giant steps. The drop, however, after the last bottom ledge consisted of an eighty-foot drop.
It was of course here that they were ambushed.
Swooping down from the cliffs came a gargoyle, feral and wild-looking, with geometric patterns carved into its rocky skin. It dove for Avner, screeching with wild abandon. Avner screamed in response, and barely got out of the way of the terrifying beast.
Two more gargoyles flew down right behind their companion, attacking Duerak. Their claws scraped against his armor, but neither managed to cause any real damage. Duerak swung with his axe and scored a hit against one of the gargoyles, chopping into its thick hide.
More gargoyles poured out from above them, screeching and diving towards the unsuspecting party. Daelis dashed forward, drawing his rapier and slashing at the air, which was thick with gargoyles. He drew blood, cutting into one of the creature’s faces.
Jericho drew his swords as a gargoyle attacked him, slashing with two quick strokes. He expertly severed the beast’s wing, and the thing collapsed to the ground in a mass of shrieking flesh.
Poddle smashed a gargoyle in the face as it swooped by, sending it spinning to the ground. He cackled. “You don’t have the courage to face me, then?”
Avner, screaming in terror, ran at full speed away from the gargoyles…right off the cliff. Fortunately, there was a ledge twenty feet below him, which he landed on roughly. Unfortunately, he was knocked unconscious by the impact.
A gargoyle flew down after him.
Amella took a wild swing with her sword, but missed horribly.
Kurgol, seeing Avner in trouble, and still not caring about his own safety, rushed to the edge of the cliff and leaped, landing on the ledge twenty feet down and rolling. He managed to pull it off with little injury, and came up, ready to fight off the gargoyle.
Gargoyles flew around them, slashing with their claws. Duerak took a few hits, and though most of it was deflected by his armor, he did take some damage. The others were hit as well, though only nicks and scratches. They managed to dodge most of the claws.
The battle continued, and swing after swing took down gargoyles. The beasts slashed at the heroes, and though most of the attacks missed, a few connected. Soon the party was covered in blood—their own and that of their enemies.
Kurgol charged the gargoyle about to slay Avner, grappling the beast and lifting it high above his head. The creature screamed but the half-orc held it tight. Then he threw the thing off the cliff to be splattered on the rocks eighty feet below.
The gargoyles flying around Duerak continued to attempt to batter him into submission, and though they scored a few hits, the half-dwarf warrior continued to fend them off valiantly.
A few of the gargoyles broke off from the half-dwarf and attacked Daelis, drawing blood and forcing the half-elf to back away from his offensive.
Rapton continued to mutter his incantations, drawing on the power of nature to conjure flame from the air around him and sending it hurtling at a pair of gargoyles, burning them and pushing them back.
Duerak, roaring with rage as the gargoyles flew around him, lashed out with his axe and scored a hit on one of the creatures, almost bringing it down.
Daelis did the same, thrashing out with his rapier and stabbing one of the gargoyles in the chest. It screeched, but pulled itself off the blade and flew away, swooping back in for another attack.
Jericho rushed towards a gargoyle, brandishing his swords. He swung true and cut deep, sending a shower of black blood spraying across the stones as his weapon connected with gargoyle flesh.
Yereth rushed to help Duerak, holding his axe in one hand and reaching out with his massive fist to grab a gargoyle out of the air. The gargoyle screeched as it was pulled down towards the earth and crushed beneath the muscled arms of the minotaur.
The battle shifted after that, and the party pushed back ferociously, driving back and killing the gargoyles until the last few fled in terror back towards the mountains.
The party helped Kurgol back up on to the main path, and they continued on along the cliffside road, now even more wary. Daegoth soon met back up with them, disheartened by his bad luck in trying to find the path back to his tribe, but now more eager than ever to get to Farshore, where he could make his way back to his people.
The party assumed they would see Nimlar as well as they continued on, but he had truly disappeared, and they had no clue where he could have gone. They went the entire day of travel without seeing any sign of the elven ranger, and camped that night still chewing on thoughts of what could have happened to their friend. The gargoyles and the strange attack on the camp in the night wore on them, and they slept fitfully.
Wednesday, October 20th, 1234 AY
They awoke to Avner screaming.
As the party came groggily awake themselves, they soon saw what had made the nobleman so terrified. Just outside the camp (and outside the light range of their fire, which explained why the people on watch didn’t see it), were arranged a dozen bird carcasses. Each bird was tied, wings outstretched and head to the ground, on an X-shaped frame. Although the birds appeared to have been dead for days, they were certainly not there the day before.
The rest of the party, though not as distressed about the appearance of the birds as Avner was, were puzzled as to the origin of the bird carcasses. Urol and Kurgol examined the bodies and talked quietly about the date of death and how they could have gotten there.
Tavey approached Jericho and asked quietly, obviously shaken, “Why is all this weird stuff happening?”
“There’s obviously a magic-user involved here,” Jericho said, shaking his head. “Here, let me try and see if there’s any residual magical presence.” The duskblade reached out with his own magic and tried to detect any faint magical auras.
There was nothing. He frowned.
After a cursory examination, the rest of the party decided that there was nothing inherently dangerous or insightful about the encounter, and so they moved on.
They traveled for quite some time before coming to another obstacle. Up ahead, the path came to an abrupt end, looking out over the bay. Nearly sixty feet above, it continued along its southern route. A bamboo platform hung near the upper path’s edge, suspended by several vines draped over a log driven in to the cliff face above. The other ends of the vines hung down the cliff face and were attached to a second log at waist height on the lower ledge. Down below, a dozen or so abandoned huts lined a wide but rocky beach.
The heroes inspected the lift for a while, before deeming it was relatively safe, though a little creaky, and they decide to have Yereth operate the contraption while the rest of the party was lifted up to the new path. Daelis climbed aboard the lift and tested it—it seemed to hold. Yereth hoisted the ropes and Daelis was lifted up to the new area safely. He exited the lift and called to the others to hurry up.
Jericho, Urol, Tavey, Avner, Amella, and Rapton all consecutively went up the lift, one at a time, and make it with no issue. The only remaining beings were Duerak, Daegoth, Yereth, and the animals, Duerak’s horse Jerry and Yereth’s rhino companion.
The animals seemed to be the biggest problem. Though Yereth summoned a giant eagle with his druidic magic to carry the horse, Jerry, there was nothing that the minotaur could do to take Temul, the rhino, any further. Yereth regrettably commanded his companion to go back to the other side of the island, back to their home.
Duerak, Daegoth, and Yereth decided that it would just be safer, given their respective weight, to have the summoned eagle carry them up to the top of the ledge as well, rather than deal with the chance that the lift would break with them aboard.
When the party reached the top, and looked back at the vines that the lift had been operated by, they noticed something they hadn’t seen before… One of the vines had been partially cut. Someone had sabotaged the lift. Luckily, they had been smart enough about using it that it hadn’t been an issue…but the danger had been there.
They continued on.
Thursday, October 21st, 1234 AY
The next morning, as the party was eating breakfast, Amella was looking through the food supplies and found something unexpected. “Half of the food here is gone!” she yelled over the silence of the morning.
There was a moment of tension, and then she looked straight at everyone’s favorite nobleman. “”/characters/avner-meravanchi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Avner…" she hissed.
She marched up to the man, who blanched visibly, and stuck her finger in his face. “You stupid, stuck up brat!” she said. “I thought you’d been taking more than your share…”
“I didn’t do it,” Avner retaliated, getting some fire back in his visage. “Anyways, what would it matter if I did? I’ve more than earned it…”
That sent Amella into a tirade that dwarfed a volcanic explosion.
Kurgol promptly left, not wanting to have anything to do with this anymore.
Jerry whinnied loudly.
After a while, Urol spoke up softly, almost imperceptibly, in the middle of the argument. “What is that? Something’s wrong…”
Suddenly Kurgol came running back from where he had gone. “Everyone, stop! Something’s coming!”
Everyone looked where Kurgol pointed. In the sky, flying towards them, was an army of gargoyles.
The party wasted no time. They abandoned their camp, which was strewn about the rocky ledge, and moved back into a cave system a few hundred feet away built into the cliff walls. They started to set up defensive positions, with the strongest fighters towards the cliff entrance. The gargoyles were about a hundred and fifty feet away from them and closing fast once they got into position.
Daelis, though feeling just a tad foolish, started singing a few notes in order to cast his bard magic, imbuing the nearby Daegoth with unnatural strength. The lizardfolk grinned at him and nodded in thanks.
Yereth was chanting in his own magical tongue as well, calling on the powers of a more natural force. There was a rumble as the sky above the flying gargoyles darkened, and suddenly a huge bolt of lightning flew down from the heavens to flash among the creatures. Unfortunately, they twisted and turned as they flew, and only one of the gargoyles seemed harmed by the bolt.
The gargoyles came forward, screeching. The party held their ground.
Daelis rushed forward just as the gargoyles were upon them at the mouth of the cave, stabbing with his rapier and fending one of the beasts off.
Jericho finished muttering in the language of magic and shot a bolt of energy from his fingertips, smiting a gargoyle from the sky and throwing its burning carcass to the ground in a smoking heap.
Daegoth tackled a charging gargoyle, biting into him with ferocity and then bringing up his axe to dig into the thing’s exposed chest. It flailed and threw itself away from the raging lizardfolk, screeching shrilly.
The gargoyles swooped in as one, more than dozen at once, clawing and biting at the party, but ineffectively at first. After a moment, from the middle of the pack, came the biggest, meanest looking gargoyle, a massive brute that work a stone crown fitted with rough gemstones. It bellowed and attacked.
Daegoth and the others fought valiantly, keeping the gargoyles at bay at the mouth of the cave and slaying several of them. None of the party were seriously injured, and soon Daegoth took down the huge brute, undoubtedly the leader of the group. The rest of the gargoyles fled shortly thereafter.
Daegoth claimed the crown, and the party recovered from the battle, healing their wounds. Soon after, they headed back out on the path south, now hoping to get to Farshore more than ever.
Nimlar was still missing, however, and their journey was far from over.