The Heroes of Althai

Camelot

Visitor
Chapter One: You All Start in a Tavern...

“Seriously?” said the man wearing chainmail sitting at the bar. “Are you completely serious?”

He was in the Dragon’s Den Inn and Tavern, clearly the most popular inn in the town of Fannen-Dar. It was packed with dwarves, elves, humans, halflings, and an odd assortment of other beings that were kicked back and relaxing. The only one not relaxed was Benn, the human warlord.

“I mean, seriously?! We start in a tavern? That’s so cliché! Couldn’t you think of anything better?”

He sighed and went back to sipping his apple cider. There was no point in arguing with the celestial bodies above. They always got their way.

A large dragonborn paladin, at least six and a half feet tall, approached Benn. “What better place to start an adventure than where you can find beer and attractive women, my friend?” he said.

“I was just hoping for a change of pace, a neat story or something,” Ben said. “And haven’t you noticed that you’re the only dragonborn here? There are no women that you’d find attractive.”

“What?!” the dragonborn said, standing up. “No women? I thought this town was full of dragonborn!”

“It is,” Benn said calmly. “Just not in a bar.”

The dragonborn sat back down, deflated. “Oh, well...I’m Kriv, by the way.”

“Benn.” He took another gulp of his cider. A table behind him erupted in roars of laughter as a player in a card game lost it all on a gamble. The one that lost, a tiefling, got up, walked to the bar, and sat down next to Benn.

“Tough luck, man,” Kriv said from the other side of Benn. “That looked like quite a lot of gp.”

“Yeah, it was,” the tiefling said, “but I’m not worried.”

“Why’s that?” Benn asked.

The tiefling showed them a pouch, and shook it so that the warlord and the paladin could hear the jingling coins inside. “He got some of mine, but I took more of his, and he’s too drunk right now to notice.” The tiefling pocketed his ‘winnings’ with a gleeful smile.

“Ah, I see,” Benn said. “You’re a rogue. Well, I have nothing to worry about.” He pointed to an empty loop on his belt pouch. “I’ve got nothing for you to steal.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t want to steal from you,” the tiefling said. “That jerk was cheating, so he got what was coming to him. My name’s Ekemon. Nice to be of your acquaintance.” He held out a red hands, with long fingers that looked like they could swipe the feathers off a sleeping owlbear. Nonetheless, Benn shook it.

“I’m Benn,” he said again.

“And I’m Kriv,” the dragonborn piped up.

Ekemon ordered a mug of apple cider, and when it arrived, took an enormous gulp. He then asked, “What are two warriors like you doing hanging around a tavern?” He quietly waited for an answer, but none came. Benn and Kriv exchanged glances.

“Uh...” Kriv finally said, “this is just where we started. We don’t know why we’re here yet.”

Ekemon blinked, shrugged, and took another gulp of his cider. “Guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

Suddenly, the door opened. In walked an eladrin wearing flowing green robes. Her eyes were bright purple and her hair lemon yellow. Her robes were decorated with stars and moons. A glint of crystal in her large pocket showed that she was a wizard.

She approached the three adventurers. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but where can I find a Ren Strithaw?”

“You mean the innkeeper?” Benn asked. “He’s right there, where he always is at this time of day.” He pointed to the old man who was serving the drinks. This was Ren Strithaw, the innkeeper and bartender at the Dragon’s Den Inn and Tavern.

“Yes, that’s him,” the eladrin said. She then started shouting and waving, “Excuse me! Mr. Strithaw, sir! Yoo-hoo!” The old man turned around, looking at her like she had the head of a kobold, but came over to her.

“What can I do fer ya, eh?” he asked. His voice was wheezy and his accent thick, but he was still full of life and laughter.

“We would like to know more about these rats I’ve been hearing about in your basement,” she said.

Ren’s eyes grew to the size of astral diamonds, and he put a finger up to his mouth. “Shh! Don’t go yelling stuff like that about! It’s bad fer business!”

Ben wasn’t concerned about Ren’s business, but noticed something strange about what the eladrin said. “What do you mean, we?”

“She’s talking about me!” came a voice from down below. Ekemon, Ben, and Kriv looked down to see a halfling girl glaring up at them. She had a shortbow strapped to her back and a quiver full of arrows. “The names Talia,” she said. “Best marksman among halflings. And this here is my friend, the wizard Althaea.” Althaea waved vigorously at the others who were two feet in front of her. Talia gave her a look that clearly said, “Why do I follow you around?”

Ren whispered to the wizard, “Who’s going around blabbing about rats?”

“Mutterings on the street,” she replied. “Don’t worry; it’s not big and public or anything. I was wondering if I could help in any way.”

Ren thought for a moment, and then said, “Well, it’s true, but they’re not just rats. Somehow, some giant rats got down there. It’s not a job for just one wizard and a halfling, unless you’ve been travelling before.”

Althaea shrugged. “Well...no, we haven’t.”

“We can help.” Everyone turned to look at Ben. “I mean,” he continued, “I think we’ve all been looking for some adventure. Why not start here?”

“Adventuring doesn’t consist of basements,” Ekemon said. “Adventuring is going off to faraway places and defeating great beasts.”

“Have you ever seen a giant rat?” Ren said. “There is no greater beast. Besides, I’ll pay you each 8 gold if you do it.”

“We’re in,” Ekemon and Kriv said together.

“All right then,” Ren said smiling. “The basement’s right this way.” He began walking over to a door behind the bar. Kriv, Ekemon, and Althaea followed him.

Ben looked down at the halfling, Talia. “Why do I get the feeling that we were destined to go into that basement?”

Talia rolled her eyes. “Sometimes, the powers above have a plan for us, and we have no choice but to follow it.”

“Well,” Ben said, “let’s follow this, what should we call it, ‘railed road,’ and see what comes of it.” With that, they followed the others to the basement.
 

EroGaki

Visitor
Very nice! I'm liking the humor thus far; a nice comedic twist to an overused cliche. Did I catch a Star Wars reference near the end?
 

Camelot

Visitor
Chapter Two: Rat Infestation

Ren led the five adventurers into a small room behind the counter. He pointed to a trapdoor on the floor.

“This here leads down into the basement,” he said. “I’ll be up in the tavern when you’re done. I keep a lot of food and stuff down there, so when you’re killing the rats, please try to avoid damaging anything. If you don’t come back within ten minutes...well, good luck.” With that, he left the room, shutting the door behind him.

“That was reassuring,” Ekemon said sarcastically. He then turned to the rest of the group. “Okay, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll sneak in first, surprise them, and then the rest of you...” He stopped talking as he realized that he was the only one left in the room, the trapdoor opened at his feet. He sighed. “I’ve got to take more initiative next time...”

Althaea walked down the stairs first. It was very dark in the room below; the only light came through the cracks in the floorboards on the ceiling from tavern above. Being an eladrin, she could see fine in this light, but she waved her wand and created a light so that the others could see as well.

“Okay,” Althaea said, “where are these rats?” She then cringed. A rat the size of Talia squeezed out from under a row of crates that was stacked in the middle of the room. Althaea screamed, making Kriv, who was standing next to her, to jump and cover his ears. She then furiously waved her wand, and a huge fireball blasted from the tip, scorching the rat as well as the crates and the walls, which were covered in shelves holding jars of pickled vegetables and canned meats. A few cans clattered to the ground, and one jar fell, smashing on the scorched wooden floor.

Kriv ran past the wizard. “Relax,” he said. “They’re not that big.” He walked down the stairs and between the two rows of stacked crates. He stopped dead. “Holy Bahamut,” he said. In front of him were two rats, one the same as the one Althaea just killed, but another that would have been almost as tall as Kriv if it stood on its hind legs was behind that. Glancing around, Kriv saw that there were also rats on the crates to either side of him. He gulped and pointed his axe at the giant rat directly in front of him. The rats saw the glinting metal and attacked.

There were even more that swarmed in from all around. Before he knew what was happening, Kriv was surrounded by at least five giant rats, all gnawing and gnashing their teeth at him. “A little help, guys!” he shouted as he began to swing his axe around.

Talia leapt down the stairs to aid Kriv, with Benn close behind. She shot an arrow at close range into one of the enormous rat’s heads, causing it to lash out violently at her. However, she nimbly performed a cartwheel to avoid it, backing up against the wall and cocking another arrow in her bow. The rats took notice of her and began to attack her. One bit her elbow as she held her bow.

Benn pushed through the rats to get to Talia and Kriv. He noticed one of the gigantic rats rearing up on its hind legs to attack Kriv while his back was turned. “Kriv, behind you!” Benn shouted.

Kriv swung around with his axe to cleave the rat through its belly. It hissed and squealed, squatting back down onto all fours, but didn’t back off.

“These things are tough!” Kriv shouted. “How the heck did they get in here?”

A rat saw Althaea standing at the top of the stairs and skittered towards her. She screamed again, but Ekemon came up behind her and threw a dagger at the rat. It grazed its fur, distracting it long enough for Althaea to summon up her will to teleport away. She appeared about twenty feet away and cast another fiery explosion that scorched three more rats.

Ekemon stared at her in disbelief. “You can teleport?” he said.

Althaea shrugged. “It’s an eladrin thing.”

“Lucky,” Ekemon said. “All I can do is get angry.”

Kriv sliced at more rats, but the darn things were so slippery that they kept dodging his axe. “Stay still!” he shouted, but it didn’t help. He finally gave up with his weapon and opened his mouth. “Duck, Benn!” he shouted before unleashing a blast of fiery breath. Benn took cover behind the crates as Kriv killed one rat and severely burned another. Of course, he also burnt the crates that Althaea had already scorched, leaving them falling to smoldering pieces.

The force of the flames coming out of his own mouth caused Kriv to fall backwards into the crates behind him. An enormous rat bore down on him and bit his arm hard. Kriv growled in pain, and the rats started to swarm all over him.

Talia used Kriv’s dragon breath as a distraction to slip to the side and plunge an arrow into a giant rat.

Benn moved closer to the wall, where the rats couldn’t swarm him as easily. “Stay behind me Talia,” he said to the halfling as he killed a rat with his longsword.

“Fine by me,” she said, taking cover behind Benn and cocking another arrow in her shortbow.

The rats were starting to panic, realizing the strength of these adventurers. The smaller ones started scrambling away to the dark unlit far corner of the room. Althaea tried to chase after them and cast a scorching burst on the entire corner of the room. She then turned towards the rats around Kriv.

“Scorching...” she started to say.

“Hold on!” shouted Kriv. “Don’t use that fireball! I’ll get burnt too, you know!”

“You have fire breath,” Althaea responded. “Shouldn’t you be resistant to fire?”

“Although that would make sense...no.”

Althaea shrugged. “Ray of Frost, then!” A beam of ice shot from her wand and drove into one of the rats. She continued with this spell instead of the scorching burst.

The three largest rats continued to fight. They were still gnawing at Kriv. Ekemon leapt down the stairs, jumped over the side, and ran past Talia and Benn, throwing a dagger at the rat that bit Kriv’s arm. It sliced one of the rat’s legs, causing the rat to squeal in pain and fear for its life.

Kriv regained his composure and shouted, “By the mighty hand of Bahamut, I challenge thee!” at one of the rats. It hissed and sneered in response. Kriv then swung his axe at two rats, the first dodging but the second getting his axe right in the side. Dark blood spilled out from the rat onto the floor, but it still continued to attack, angered by Kriv’s challenge.

The three rats continued to attack Kriv, but he seemed to be in some sort of rage, moving his shield to defend each of the attacks on him. The rats couldn’t breach his defenses. Still, Kriv was weakening.

Talia turned and plugged away some more arrows. Her hunting skills really came in handy, especially at this close a range. Benn worked together with Ekemon to flank one of the rats. They both attacked at the same time, killing the huge rat.

Althaea killed a rat with her ray of frost, leaving just one left. Kriv brought his greataxe down on it with all its might, but the beast refused to give up. It bit Kriv’s leg, causing him to fall back against the crates again.

The rat reared up on Kriv. It screeched in victory, then plunged it’s fangs down on Kriv.

Kriv closed his eyes, but didn’t feel any pain. He opened them slowly to see the rat still above him. It then toppled on its side, one of Talia’s arrows sticking out from its neck.

“You’re welcome,” Talia said, hooking her bow on her back.

Kriv slumped down onto the ground. “Wow,” he gasped. “Those were some strong rats.”

Talia sat next down next to him. “The biggest ones were dire rats,” she said. “They’re giant rats that have been mutated by disease, and their bite might spread illness.”

Kriv looked at the gaping wound on his arm. “Great,” he said.

Althaea looked over to the corner where the other rats had gone. She couldn’t hear any sounds. It was as though they had disappeared. She brought her magical light over to the corner to investigate.

Benn sat down across from Kriv, next to a puddle of rat blood. “What was all that about Bahamut?” he asked.

Kriv sighed, still out of breath from the battle. “I’m not just a regular warrior. I’m a paladin.” He took out a gold medallion from underneath his armor that he wore around his neck. It had a dragon head carved into it. “I serve the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut, destroying his foes in order to protect justice. By calling on Bahamut, I can challenge my foes into staying to fight.” He put the medallion away, and sheathed his axe as well. “At least that’s what paladins are supposed to do. I just like killing stuff, and I figured being a paladin would be more interesting than a normal fighter.”

“Wow, deep,” Benn said, rolling his eyes.

“Hey, guys!” Althaea shouted from the corner of the room. Benn and Talia went over to see what she wanted while Kriv rested and Ekemon picked up the daggers he had thrown.

They came to the corner to see Althaea sitting cross-legged on the ground, a pile of coins spread out in front of her. “Check out what I found!” she said. “Treasure!”

Ekemon appeared between Benn and Talia. “Did you say treasure?”

“Yeah! I split it up into piles of all the same value.” Ekemon groaned. “I also found this,” she added, holding up a corked vial containing opaque green liquid.

Benn took it to examine it. “It’s a potion of healing,” he said. “This’ll come in useful. Mind if I hold onto it for now?”

“So you can horde all the magical items for yourself, eh?” Ekemon said. “I don’t think so.”

“I think that’s something you would do, actually.”

“Uh, yeah, but that’s beside the point.”

Benn put the potion in his belt pouch and took a pile of coins. Ekemon and Talia did the same. Benn then took a pile to Kriv.

Althaea stood up and brushed off the dirt from the floor. “Well, I guess we can go back up now, huh?” she said. Ekemon was already on the stairs, waiting for everyone else. Talia didn’t respond, as she was looking intently at the floor where Althaea was sitting. Althaea waved her hand in front of Talia’s face. “Hello? What’s up?”

“That floor looks weird,” Talia said.

“Really? I didn’t notice anything. I was just looking for where the other rats went when I found the treasure.”

“What do you mean where the rats went? I thought you scorched them.”

“No, I missed. They just disappeared into the darkness.”

Talia got down on the ground and moved her hands over the floor. “Or maybe,” she said, “they disappeared...” Her small fingers found a crack in the floor, and she pulled up, revealing a secret trapdoor. “...into here.”

“Guys, come check this out!” Althaea shouted. The others came over again, this time including Kriv, who had gotten rested up enough to continue.

“What now?” Ekemon said.

Talia stood up, though she was still only waist high to everyone else. Even for a halfling, she was short. “The rats went into this trapdoor. I think we should go in to see why this is here.”

“Wait,” Benn said. “If the rats went into the trapdoor, then how was it closed? They’re rats. They don’t have thumbs.”

“I don’t think that matters,” Talia said. “We’ve got to explore this. We’re adventurers, right?”

“I think we should head upstairs and collect our reward,” Ekemon said.

Kriv stepped forward. “I’m all for going down there and killing whatever we come across,” he said.

Benn nodded. “I’m in.”

Althaea shrugged. “I have nothing better to do.”

Talia looked around at all of them. “All right, then,” she said. “Let’s explore this trapdoor.”

“Heh,” Althaea said, “you rhymed.”
 

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