September 3, 1999
As Shandril walked into the bright courtyard of Horneg's keep, she smiled softly at the thought of the leisurely walk ahead of her. It was to be one of her many enjoyable strolls through the great forests. She looked forward to this once more though, as she ran her hand down her sleak blade, Serenheim. Walking past her faithful golems she heard a noise behind her. She whirled around quickly but it was too late. A dagger swung at her face. She gasped loudly and ducked in time. Glaring up at her enemy, a dark face grinned evilly at her and brought the dagger down on her shield. A loud clang echoed through the dismal halls of the keep. Shandril leaped back and chanted in a strange tongue,
"Echoem defa perloyam!"
Several rays of light pierced the body of the large gargoyle and he wailed loudly, recoiling back into the courtyard. With a swift swing, Shandril pierced it's heart with one of her cursed arrows. The dying scream of it sent shivers down her spine, but a sadistic pleasure came out of the final war cry.
"I must tell Horneg to train these horrid gargoyles not to attack me."
She grinned dimly, and walked through the gates of the keep onto the grey, stone path. As she walked into the lush forests of Spirited Heights she noticed her amulet starting to glow, a deep azure glow. It reminded her of the ocean. But the glow meant that danger was not far from Shandril. She unsheathed Serenheim and cautiously advanced and climbed down the sheer cliffs overlooking the Heights.
"Alas, even the once holy Spirited Heights hath fallen to the dark dangers of the accursed Vecna. Curse it's arcane magic on this elven forest!" she cried out and walked into the forest.
Her amulet glowed more brightly as she headed towards the rock quarry. Following the worn path, she halted, noticing the dazzling glow of her amulet. A deep growl echoed off the foreboding trees beside her and she turned. A large creature stood in front of her, sneering with an insane gleem in it's eyes. It grasped a stray log from the grass to the side and roared at her.
"A gnoll lord! Damn you for entering this land! I will clean this forest out of all foul creatures, even if it kills me!" she shouted.
"Ectum nothos farthia!"
The sky thundered and a blinding bolt of light hit the tree in front of the horrifying beast. The tree groaned in agony and swung itself onto the shocked gnoll. A screech came from above.
"Ah, Sting, my dear eagle. Destroy this foul beast while I take care of a certain creature who has been bothering my friends, the pygmies.", she commanded softly, and quickly ran to the swift ravine ahead of her. Careful not to lose her footing and fall into the caverns below, she stepped across the stepping stones and onto the soft banks on the opposite side. She shuddered at the thought of meeting once of those horrid tentacles anyways. She wished she could destroy the squid who was polluting the ravine down below, but had more pressing matters to attend to anyways.
"It can't be helped.", Shandril thought, and jogged to the quarry north of her. She immediately heard whispering and giggling as she set foot upon the many rocks of the quarry.
"Yes my beloved, we shall take care of those awful pygmies soon enough. With this stone I found while travelling through the ravine we can destroy them. Yes, it is my precious... Now, stand guard while I create a special herb to stop those pesky lions from wandering into the quarry."
Shandril listened in wonder at the whispering ahead of her. Peering above the large stone she hid behind she saw two large snakes swimming around the ravine, and behind them an awful looking, blue-haired sprite holding up a pale, blue stone and giggling. The sprite put it down onto a stone and starting chanting some arcane spell in a foreign language.
"Oh Gamina, goddess of love and war! Bless me with justice as I clean the forests of this malevolent creature!" she praised.
A beautifal figure leaped out of the sky gracefully. She smiled at Shandril and spoke,
"You have summoned me, Shandril. I cannot help you, I am creating the Mists of Elvian for the poor elves who lost their homes when Soth's army attacked Mistwood. Try the beautiful goddess Envia."
With that, Gamina dissapeared into a cloud of smoke.
"Envia! Please give me the faith to slay this beast!"
A purple flower rose out of the earth and Envia hopped out, clad in a purple robe and a violet in her hair. She spoke,
" Alas Shandril a poor (newbie??) has lost his way and I must help him find Medievia. Try someone else." She jumped in the flower and it creeped back into the ground.
Shandril sighed and started to pray again. A hiss came from beside her.
"So you think you can steal my precious from me? Moccassins! Get her!"
The two snakes swam fast towards Shandril. They hissed, baring two large incisors in their mouths. Shandril gulped nervously and then grinned. She quickly grabbed the stone from the sprite and chanted out, "Nervas Ort Elemantalas!"
The stone shuddered and leaped out of her hands. It fell smack on one of the stones, sending a wave of power flying out of it cracks. A twister of water seeped out of the rock and growled, "You will pay for this!"
The elemental formed into a large whirlwind of water and summoned a large amount of water from the ravine. The wave of water swept the metallic moccassins flying into the walls, a sickening crunch echoing across the quarry walls.
"You will pay for this Shandril! A curse on you!" the sprite hissed and dissapeared in a bright light.
"Thank you water elemental. I feel weary, I must go to my bed."
Shandril woke up and almost screamed as she noticed a figure looming over her.
"My dear Shandril, you are so pale. What is wrong? Did you go leaping through the vines again? I told you not to outdue yourself!"
The worn face of Horneg came into view as Shandril awoke.
"Oh my dear Horneg, I'm afraid I can't set a foot out of bed today. I'm so tired... my throat hurts... I can't speak very well..."
She suddenly remembered the curse of the water sprite. "I can't tell Horneg, he'll be furious." she thought, shivering as she remembered Horneg's horrible experiments on those who betrayed him...
"I have much work to do. Brina is crying out at night for her uncle, the Duke of Trellor. I must fasten this aurellium chain to keep her quiet so my experiments will not make her wail so much! Soon I will make her completely undead! It will be absolutely magnificent!"
Horneg's voice faded out as he walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs to his laboratory. Shandril reached for her amulet, but a gentle hand stopped her.
"I'm sorry Miss but you shan't get up today. You look very ill, absolutely... peakid!"
A small langrata slave smiled warmly at her and gave her the amulet she holds so dear.
"Many thanks Goru, your kindness touches my heart."
As Goru left the room to clean up the halls of the keep, a chore that makes many a langrata to do (the homanculus makes an awful mess down there), Shandril leaped out of her bed, coughing.
"I'm sorry dearest Horneg, I must stop this curse before it get's the best of me." she mumbled to herself, putting her travelling cloak on.
Shandril quickened her pace as nightfall fell upon the mystical forests of Spirited Heights. Crickets chirped softly in the distance and the leaves rustled in the wind, whispering to eachother...
Suddenly she stopped before the large, iron gate. She heard a noise behind her, and then a horrible screech from above. Shandril turned around, wielding Serenheim, and bravely walked forward to meet her opposer. The stone walls shone brightly as a large fireball dived down to meet Shandril. Shandril jumped out of the way and jumped back to see her enemy. A snake-like creature stood at the top of the guard post, hissing and sneering down at her. It bared it's fangs and hissed again, and started chanting some arcane spell. Another fireball came down, and hit Shandril in the chest.
Shandril yelped in pain, but leaped forward to strike. Her pierce shattered the banelar's spine and sent it tumbling over the wall and down the cliffside.
"Those banelars are beginning to bother me. Once I remove this curse from me I shall have to take care of them." Shandril said and walked carefully down the path into the Heights.
It wasn't long before Shandril was back at the ravine. She crept across the slimy rocks and silently crouched behind a large stone. She heard whispering and peered over the rock.
"Yesss.... now that I have Shandril's soul I will be able to revive my dead moccasins and still will be able to create a new monster, a very scary one indeed..."
Shandril cast a spell of invisibility on herself and bravely sneaked over to the sprite, silently, for monsters can hear your every breath, and your heart pounding through your chest. The stars shimmered brightly in the night, and calmed Shandril as she walked toward the sprite softly. She looked around her to try to find a way to break the curse. In front of her, on a large, flat stone was a black, steel cauldron. A disgusting brew filled the quarry with the stench of rotting ogres. Shandril held her breath and walked past it while the water sprite whispered and muttered to itself by the cauldron. Shandril then noticed a large orb behind another rock. She picked it up and looked inside, and saw herself staring back at her. But it was no reflection. The face staring back at her was tortured, and agonizingly hopeless to resist the might of the evil sprite. Shandril then had an idea. She turned around and smashed the orb on the ground. A shattering CRRAAAACK echoed off the quar! ry walls and the sprite jumped from her feet and sneered at Shandril, as her invisibilty came to a sudden halt.
"You! You will pay for your misdeeds, for this orb can only be burned to release your inner self, and that is NOT going to happen, not over my dead body!"
The sprite chanted a spell and raised her hands, did a 360 spin and pointed at Shandril. 7 large magical missiles flew at Shandril, piercing her skin. Shandril shouted a war cry and lunged at the sprite with Serenheim. The blade went sliding into the sprite's head and the sprite cried out for help.
Two large, silver snakes appeared from the water and hissed at Shandril. Shandril released her sword from the lifeless head of the sprite and turned to the snakes.
"Seri huren acida!"
Disgustingly oozey, green lumps flew at the shocked snakes as they turned to dive into the water. The acid splattered on their backs and sizzled as they screamed in agony. Shandril then took the swipe and cleaved both their heads off neatly. She then turned and noticed the sprite crawling to her cauldron.
"Fool... your curse will never break, for even if you do break it, you can't stop me from cursing you once again! Until then..."
The water sprite dissapeared in a cloud of smoke. Shandril sighed and leaned against the cauldron. She screamed in pain as the sheer heat of it spread through her body. Then she grinned as a new idea sprang in her mind. She grabbed the orb and swiftly flung it into the raunchy brew. A cloud of green smoke boiled forth and rised into the starry atmosphere. Shandril felt alive again and whistled her way back to the keep.
Shandril leaned back and sighed as she read her favorite book, Il Strumus Loranso Favoro. A noise startled her as she threw down the book and grabbed for her sword.
"It's just me Shandril! I came to report the latest news of the realm for you, directly from thy friends, the pygmies."
A sullen and worried face came into view and Shandril sunk back into her bed.
"I am deeply sorry for my behaviour Goru", she said to her favorite langrata slave, " but something has been troubling me lately. After that adventure with the curse and the evil water sprite I crave for a something more... daring. Something I can really... sink my teeth into.."
"Well this is the one, Shandril. Pygmies report of bands of banelars terrorizing their campground in the northern part of the Heights. Many have already died, for the pygmies are defenseless against such awful creatures. They need your help, to kill the banelars and cure their poisonous wounds." Goru gasped, as she leapt out of bed.
"Of course! I've been wondering about those nasty banelars for a while, and have ventured out many a night to find where they have set camp. I'll help the pygmies right away. Goru, fetch me my amulet. It's powers protect me from the evil of creatures who wish to do harm to the innocent... "
Goru entered the room with her amulet. She put it on, thanked Goru and leaped down the stairs to the foyer of the keep. She jogged through the courtyard, through the gate, and into the forest.
It did not take long for Shandril to jog her way to the campgrounds of the pygmies, for she 'borrowed' Horneg's boots of levitation, which made it much easier to run across the steep ravine and jump through the hilly regions of the wood. As soon as she stepped apon the worn ground of the camp, she heard a blood curdling scream.
"Help! Please someone help me! A - a banelar! It is chasing me!", a tiny voice wailed, as twigs snapped and leaves rustled somewhere close to Shandril's position.
Shandril wielded Serenheim and ran to the source of the pleas. Their she found a young pygmy, about 7, hiding at the top of a tree, her golden locks of hair messed and caked with dirt. She stared down at the serpent which was trying to get up the tree (with no avail). Shandril crept behind it, and brought her sword down apon the monster's head. It fell lifeless on the ground.
"Oh thank you kind woman! You have saved me from this awful banelar! They have been chasing many a pygmy around the forests lately. But alas, you are no pygmy. I am Elsa. May I ask your name?", she spoke softly, leaping to the ground.
"I am Shandril. I come from the keep on the bluffs to rid this camp of those awful creatures", she said, gesturing to the dead banelar by the base of the tree," and I will need to see the chief of this camp."
"Oh Shandril! I have heard of you and your great adventures! I'll take you to our leader! Watch out for that pit over there, it's a trap for wary monsters who try to creep in here.", the girl said, and lead Shandril to a small, straw hut in the middle of many smaller huts in the forest clearing. Then she knocked on the door and spoke, "It is Elsa, father! Shandril is here to see you."
The door opened with a creak and a small, smiling pygmy stood in front of it. "So you are Shandril! I have heard great things about you, and I saw you save my daughter from that horrid creature! Please, come in."
The two walked into the hut. Shandril was surprised at all the lush furnishings and warmth of the primitive house. She sat in a comfortable straw chair in front of the chief's desk.
"Shandril, there is some sort of environment near here where the banelars are coming here. I'm sorry to get you into this mess but we have run out of options. So many have died and are poisoned from the monsters! Please! Help us!", the man pleaded, with a tone of deep sadness in his voice.
"Of course, sir! I will find this den and slay the whole lot of them. Have you any more information for me?", Shandril asked with a smile.
"Yes! Many of our scouts reported a hole northwest of this forest that has an awful stench coming from it. It would be wise to check it out, our scouts are too small to find their way into it." , the man informed Shandril, and stood. "Thank you again, Shandril! I must be going. Good luck!"
Shandril stepped out of the camp with a dismal feeling growing inside of her. She wondered how many there were, if that hole was even the right hole. She sighed deeply and headed out of the forests into the dark woods ahead.
As Shandril stepped through the wood a stench was clearly becoming more and more disgusting each step she took. Very soon, she reached a hole in the ground. Putrid fumes of stink billowed out of the hole. Shandril turned in disgust, but stepped forward bravely. She then held her breath, and jumped into the hole.
Her feet came down on a soft pillow of dirt. It was clear this hole was dug quite recently. Her leggings glowed a light blue as the amulet inside her pocket blazed with curiosity. "This is the one.", she thought to herself and struck a torch.
The first thing she noticed was how narrow and small the tunnel really was. She would have to crawl through it. She knelt down and crept into the narrow and tiny passage. Every step she took towards the heart of this passage, the smell kept getting worse and worse. The passage was getting smaller and smaller too, and soon broke off into many smaller passages, but the main one was her goal. She soon came to a large cavern, not big enough for her torch to cover it all. Her amulet glowed inside her pants though, and she took it out with moxie.
The whole room was bathed in an eerie blue light and several small shapes turned toward Shandril. "Looks like I've hit home!", she said and charged toward the closest one. She hewed her sword into it's body and it screamed in pain. Several fireballs and rays of light flew past Shandril, sometimes striking other banelars in their paths. Shandril ducked low and let the fireballs fly into eachoter, causing explosions big enough to hit many banelars in one. As soon as the casting lessened, she sprung back up and made mince meat out of many more. Soon the whole room was littered with dozens of serpent bodies. Shandril grinned and stepped back towards the tunnel.
Suddenly a sharp pain flew through her like knives stabbing her organs. She screamed and fell to the ground, and looked at the source of the pain.
A banelar has sunk it's teeth into her leg and released them, send blood flying out of the leg, onto the already bloodied floor. She turned and sliced the last banelar's head off.
"That's a rap.", she said and made her way back to the hole. She then sealed it with dirt and a spell to make the dirt one again. She took five steps backward and collapsed onto the floor.
"What do you mean, you cannot stop the poison! Too severe? You aren't a doctor... you... YOU!", a harsh voice cried out. A large explosion sounded and a cry came from outside, followed by a sickening crack.
Horneg stormed in the room, his face pale with worry and bloodshot with rage. "Shandril! You are awake! What did you do to get this poison!! Tell me!", he yelled at her. " I am sorry, I did not mean to yell. I am just very tired right now..."
Shandril tried to get up but pain like arrows shot into her chest. She lay back down and groaned in pure agony. She whispered, "I am sorry Horneg. The banelars... those poor pygmies... I had to do something..."
She slumped silently on the bed. The amulet fell lifeless to the ground. As gold turned to silver and it cracked and crumbled, Horneg finally lost it...