|The Fortress of Elnissa|
Designed by Gorn
Medium Groups: 26-30
Large Groups: 24-28
As the clamour of horses stirred Guyard Nallah from his thoughts, he stepped anxiously to the tower window and peered out. A silent curse escaped his lips as he counted the mounted knights passing under the portcullis and into the courtyard - the count was short by one. Without a further thought, Guyard left the room and breathlessly followed the stairwell down.
The five weary knights had begun to dismount as Guyard stepped into the courtyard. Searching their beaten faces, he finally stammered,
"What has become of thee? Where is Jerome?" Whether frustrated with themselves and too ashamed to answer or simply exhausted, it took several moments before any answer came. Finally Tarla composed herself and replied, "Guyard, we were ambushed!" As if spurred into action, the other knights of the Order of the Emerald Plume began adding to the discouraging tale.
"Aye, we discovered a band of traders as we followed our usual patrol," Darien continued. "Their wagons were surrounded by a swarm of goblins - such a terrible struggle I've scarcely ever seen."
Tarla nodded sagely. "Poor peasant traders, that's all they were, and close to death. How could we help but intervene?
"Aye," Guyard agreed. "'Tis a matter of honour that we protect those weak, and innocent." A third knight was gradually gathering the strength to speak, and Guyard addressed him next. "What say ye, Tuomas?
Clutching one hand to a nearly-grievous wound in his arm, Tuomas replied, "I knew somehow that it was more than petty rogues at work. We gave chase to the goblins, but soon our journey would worsen.
"Aye, we were forced to abandoned our mounts as we journeyed deeper into the mountains," Darien added. "Jerome led the three of us on foot, while the others stayed behind to tend t the wounded. The horses were halted by the snow.
As Guyard listened, he knew full well that rogues or goblins were no match for his fellow knights, and as he waited in anticipation of the tale's conclusion, his fears worsened and grew into grand, horrific images within his mind. Finally it was Tarla who continued the tale:
"As we continued to pursue, we found oursleves in a barren wasteland of mountains, ice and snow. Then the trap was sprung: I know not exactly what happened, but it seemed almost as if the snow itself were coming to life around us.
"Some sinister magic, I daresay," offered Darien. "No men they were that attacked us.."
"Warriors made of ice!" Tuomas broke in.
"But what of Jerome?" Guyard blurted out, finally having lost his patience.
"Captured," Tarla said quietly. "It seems those ice warriors were merely a distraction - while we fought, another group of cloaked figures subdued Jerome and carried him off."
Deeply disturbed, Guyard quickly asked, "Aye, but to where?
"In our weary state, we dared not pursue them, but I believe the fiends are hiding out within a large mountain in the area. With luck, we'll find it again - when we return?" He looked to Guyard as if this last remark were partially a question.
"And return we shall, after a day's rest. The situation is desperate, but we must not be foolhardy. We must tend to the wounded and collect supplies - rations, bedrolls an heavy clothing.
As the others quickly left to prepare and rest, Tuomas clutched Guyard by the arm and whispered suddenly, "Guyard, what does the name of Elnissa mean to thee?
Frowning, the knight turned to look his comrade straight in the eye. "Tuomas, speak without riddles. Elnissa, the Queen of Ice? Is that of whom ye speaks?" Tuomas nodded i frantic reply, "Aye, but Guyard!
"But what! Jerome, our leader, our mentor, is held prisoner by this...this... treacherous wench and the incessant wagging of our tongues shan't save him!
"Aye," Tuomas agreed, frowning. "But know ye this..." his voice dropped to a whisper again. "The fortress is no legend. Nor are her powers. Guyard...we are no match for her."
Tuomas turned and strode from the courtyard, leaving Guyard alone with his thoughts. Walking to the edge of their territory, Guyard peered out into the forboding wilderness, considering his decision for a moment. A cold wind passed over him, chilling him to the bone - as if this should serve as a reply.
Fortress of Elnissa is an NPK zone intended for experienced players, with a good mix of both exp and eq. Tough puzzles and a tricky layout will confound all but the most patient of players. A prize will be awarded to the first player to competely finish the zone. Any comments should be directed to me via mudmail or email. Many thanks to Baalzebul and Elorei who coded above and beyond the call of duty to finish numerous spec procs for this dense zone. Thanks also to Soulevar for playtesting, proofreading and helping to get the zone online.
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