Authors: Mark Anthony
Tags: #General Interest
|Escape from Undermountain|
|The Nobles |
|Unknown publisher (2010)|
Proofed and formatted by BW-SciFi
Ebook version 1.0
Release Date: January, 28
Artek tried to shout the word, but it escaped his lips only as a strangled whisper. Fear radiated from the far end of the tomb in thick, choking waves. He tried to back away from the dais, but his legs betrayed him. Against his will, he fell to his knees, bowing to the dread majesty rising before him. Behind him, Beckla and Corin did the same.
Icy wind shrieked through the ancient chamber. Crimson mist poured down the steps of the dark dais, filling the air with a bloody miasma. Trailing tattered funereal garb and yellowed wisps of dried flesh, the long-dead wizards climbed from their sarcophagi. They stood before the stone coffins, orbless eyes blazing, pointing accusing fingers at the humans. Two keening voices rose in shrill chorus.
Defilers! Trespassers! Foolishly have ye dared to transgress upon our domain!
So this is how it ends, Artek thought. Dying at the hands of the dead. He might have laughed at the irony of it, but when he opened his mouth, he could only scream.
Escape from Undermountain
©1996 TSR, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction.or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of TSR, Inc.
All TSR characters, character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks owned by TSR, Inc.
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Distributed to the book and hobby trade in the United Kingdom by TSR Ltd.
Distributed to the toy and hobby trade by regional distributors.
Cover art by Walter Velez. Interior art by Dawn Murin.
FORGOTTEN REALMS is a registered trademark owned by TSR, Inc. The TSR logo is a trademark owned by TSR, Inc.
First Printing: February 1996
Printed in the United States of America.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 95-62071
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"Watch yourself up there, Trisa!" he called out. His booming voice echoed around the subterranean temple.
As it had for five hundred years, the giant, sacred idol of Savras the All-Seeing sat upon its onyx dais in meditative repose. White stone hands rested calmly upon white stone knees, palms upward in a gesture of supplication. Blank stone eyes gazed from a placid stone face, while a single crystal shone like a star in the center of the idol's smooth stone brow.
Everything about the enormous statue bespoke peace, reflection, and ancient wisdom. Never in its existence had the sacred idol of Savras the All-Seeing known the blasphemous touch of a defiler. Never, that is, until now.
"Don't tell me my job, Jardis, and I won't tell you yours!"
The red-haired thief flashed a look of emerald-eyed indignation at Jardis, then continued to climb nimbly up the stone idol. Mirth rumbled in Jardis's chest. That was the exact look she had given him years ago, when he had caught her trying to pick his purse. She had frowned at him in utter annoyance, as if
were the one who had done something wrong. In anger, he might have turned her over to Waterdeep's city watch. Instead he had laughed, and they had become friends.
"I'm almost there!" Trisa called out as she scrambled onto the slope of the idol's shoulder.
"Talk less and climb more, Trisa," Sulbrin said through clenched teeth. Rivulets of sweat poured down the wizard's gaunt face as he knelt before the statue. Green sparks of magic flew from his hands where he gripped the polished dais. "I cannot stave off the enchantment of the idol much longer."
Oh, yes you can!
Jardis countered silently. He knew Sulbrin better than Sulbrin knew himself. The wizard uttered doom far more readily than hope. Yet they could always count on him in a scrape-ever since he had helped them, two perfect strangers, in a bar fight. He'd given that nasty hobgoblin captain a magical hotfoot, and gave Jardis and Trisa the chance to escape.
Long gone now were the days when Sulbrin was a scrawny mage's apprentice who couldn't cast two simple cantrips in a row. So were the days when Trisa was a freckled street urchin picking pockets for a living. Though Sulbrin was more spare than ever inside his drab gray robe, he radiated an aura of power. And there was Trisa, lithe as a cat in her supple leathers, her beauty as dangerous as it was bewitching. Just look at them now.
Jardis grinned, shaking his head. Look at
By Torm! Look at
Back when the three had met, he had been nothing more than a stripling farmboy who had run away with his father's sword. And now? Face of a lad still, yes, but he could swing a two-handed glaive with one hand, hold steady a shield in the other, and not even breathe hard. He never bothered with armor anymore, except for the studded bracers on his wrists. Just his leather breeches, and two straps around his broad, bare chest so he could sling his sword on his back. That was all he needed to make his way.
None of them were youths anymore. They were the Company of the Red Wolf. And damn them to the Abyss if they weren't going to be heroes.
"All right, I'm there!"
The thief perched atop the idol's left ear, bathed in a pearl-white glow. From a hole in the ceiling, filtering down from far above by device unknown, a single beam of moonlight pierced the dusky air. The beam fell directly upon the crystal in the center of the idol's forehead: Savras's Third All-Seeing Eye. Shards of light radiated outward, basking the column-lined temple in diamondfire.
"Remember my warning!" Sulbrin hissed. Concentration twisted his visage. Green magic still crackled around his clenched hands. "The beam must not be broken, or the doom of Savras will be upon us!"
Trisa stretched her lean form. She reached for the glimmering crystal with one hand, while in the other she gripped a circular mirror fashioned of polished silver. Jardis watched, breath suspended. Sweat trickled down the naked muscles of his chest. It was unusually hot for so far below ground.
Trisa's hands hovered above the crystal, just beyond the pearly beam of light. She shut her eyes in a brief prayer-no doubt to Tymora, Mistress of Fortune. Then, in one deft motion, she plucked the crystal from its socket and placed the mirror in its stead. For a frozen moment all three stared at the statue, waiting for the curse of Savras to strike them down.
The beam of light did not so much as waver. The idol gazed forward in beatific serenity.
Trisa thrust the crystal into the air. "I've got it!" she crowed exuberantly.
"You're going to get it, all right, if you don't quit your gloating and climb down!" Sulbrin gasped hoarsely. "My magic is failing."
"Hey, Jardis!" Trisa shouted. "Think fast!"
She tossed the crystal in a glittering arc, then sprang lithely down from her perch. Jardis raised a big hand. His fingers closed around the jewel just as Trisa landed in a catlike crouch. Groaning in relief, Sulbrin withdrew his arms. The wizard's counter-spell shattered. Like a blazing serpent, white-hot fire shot upward from the dais, coiling around the idol in a coruscating spiral of crystalline death.
Jardis gazed at the stone in his fist. It winked brightly, as if it were indeed a mysterious eye.
Everyone had said they were fools to venture into Undermountain. It was said that only the mad and the desperate gambled their lives in the ancient maze beneath Mount Waterdeep in search of wealth and fame. Instead, the sane gambled on the fates of those who dared to go below. Every night the spectators gathered inside the Inn of the Yawning Portal. They crowded around the Well of Entry that led down into the uppermost halls of Undermountain, wagering on which bold adventurers would survive the journey into the labyrinth-and which would never be seen again.
they called us, Jardis thought with a snort. Yet here was the Third Eye of Savras in his hand. And who were the fools now? The Company of the Red Wolf would go down in the annals of Waterdeep. And perhaps, after this, they could even stop for a while. After all, they had been traveling for years now, finding adventure and a spot of coin where the road and chance took them. But the crystal was worth an entire chest of gold-more than enough for them to take it easier for a time. They could even open that shop they always talked about when they had drunk too much ale. Trisa could be the jewel-smith she had always wanted to be, and Sulbrin could sell powders and potions to his wizard friends. And himself? Well, life as an armorer did not sound so very terrible. He could get up late, work when he wanted, and not worry about what sort of foul creature he would have to kill next. No, it did not sound terrible at all.
All they had to do now was get out.
"We did it, Jardis!" Trisa said triumphantly. She helped Sulbrin, weary but beaming, to his feet.
"We did indeed," Jardis said brightly, tucking the crystal into the leather purse at his belt. "Now, let's get out of this pit." Together, the three moved swiftly between the two long rows of columns, toward the circular portal through which they had entered the temple.
They were halfway to the door when the
Eyes wide, they whirled around. The beam of light falling upon Savras's brow had transformed from cool white to angry crimson. So too had the swirling tendrils of warding magic surrounding the idol. Now, a bloody miasma pulsated in the dusky air of the temple. Again came the sound of thunder. A web-work of dark cracks snaked across the surface of the statue. The silver mirror shattered. Stone crumbled from the idol's serene visage, revealing a new face below-a grotesque mask twisted in supreme fury. At the same moment, the two stone columns nearest the idol tottered wildly and toppled inward, striking each other with crushing force. A heartbeat later, the next two columns in line fell inward, then the next, each striking the floor with a deafening crash. One after another, like a child's game of Tip the Tiles, the columns fell, approaching the Company of the Red Wolf with perilous speed.
"The wrath of Savras is upon us!" Sulbrin cried.
"Not as long as we can run!" Jardis shouted back.
Pulling his companions by the arms, he lunged in a mad dash for the portal. As the three fled, columns crashed to the floor on their heels. Hearts pounding, they ran faster yet. Gradually, they began to outpace the toppling line of columns. Jardis grinned fiercely. They were going to-
Trisa let out a choking cry of fear.
Jardis jerked his head up. His blood froze. Like the stone iris of a gigantic eye, the temple's circular door was shrinking.
With a great roar, Jardis pressed forward, outpacing his companions, heavy boots pounding on hard stone. The portal continued to constrict with terrifying speed. Now it was ten feet across. Now eight. Now six. Jardis was out of breath and out of time. He launched himself into the shrinking door. Bracing his broad back against the rim, he pushed with both arms and legs. Knotted muscles stood out in strain. The rate of closure slowed but did not cease. In seconds the door would shear his body in two.
"Run, Red Wolves!"
Gasping, Trisa reached the door. She scrambled nimbly over Jardis. Sulbrin followed her a heartbeat after. Jardis glanced up, face pale, to see the last two columns toppling directly toward him. With a cry, he heaved himself over the edge of the door and through. The portal shut with a sharp
A second later came a great crash, as the columns shattered against the inside of the portal. But the door held. The noise faded into an echo.
Pale green light flared to life, revealing their three faces. A cool wisp of magelight danced on the palm of Sulbrin's hand. They stared at each other, panting. Then, as one, they grinned. They had made it.
"Shall we?" the wizard asked wryly.
"Let's," Trisa said merrily, dusting herself off. "I think I've had my fill of Undermountain for a long time to come."
Jardis laughed in agreement.
Together, they sped swiftly through the gloomy maze of halls and corridors, retracing the steps that had brought them to the shrine of Savras. They passed through a crypt lined with dusty stone sarcophagi. Next was the chamber filled with candles, all mysteriously ever-burning. And here was the Hall of Many Pillars. They were close now. A few more twists and turns and they would be at the Well of Entry. There waited the rope to take them back up to the Inn of the Yawning Portal, and to fame everlasting.
Nothing could stop them now.
"We're the Company of the Red Wolf!" Jardis shouted in jubilation.
"Our names will never be forgotten!" Sulbrin rasped exultantly.
Trisa howled with glee. "We're the greatest heroes that ever-"
A shaggy gray form leapt squealing from the shadows, knocking the thief to the ground. Long yellow teeth flashed in the gloom.
Jardis drew his glaive and skewered the thing. It let out a shrill shriek, then died. With a boot, he shoved the creature aside, gagging in disgust. It was an enormous rat, the size of a small pig. Yet a rat was still a rat-nothing to fret about. He reached down to help Trisa up. Suddenly he froze. The thief stared upward with blank green eyes. Blood spattered her face and clothes. Her throat had been torn out.
"Trisa?" Jardis whispered in puzzlement. She couldn't be dead. How could she be dead? What about their shop? He knelt and roughly shook her shoulder.
Dim shapes scuttled just beyond the circle of Sulbrin's magelight. A hungry chittering rose on the dank air, along with a foul stench. Countless pairs of blood-red eyes winked in the dark.
"We have to go, Jardis," the wizard said, in a choking voice. "It's too late for Trisa."
Dazed, Jardis lurched to his feet. Then hunger won out over fear of light, and the rats attacked.
With a shout of rage, Jardis swung his massive glaive, cleaving several of the rabid creatures in twain. Sulbrin spoke a guttural word of magic, and the wisp of magelight in his hand flared into a ball of green fire. He heaved it at the undulating gray mass. In seconds a half-dozen rats squealed as emerald flames licked at their mangy pelts. They scurried frantically around the hall, setting others ablaze. In moments the entire chamber was lit by flickering green light. Jardis stared in horror. Every inch of the vast hall was seething with gigantic rats.
Fear redoubled, Jardis swung his sword in whistling arcs, barely beating back the ravenous creatures. Sulbrin raised his hand, readying another spell. He never had the chance to cast it. A rat leapt on him from behind, and the wizard cried out in terror as he pitched forward. In moments, his body was lost amid the gnashing throng of rats, his cry cut short.
Tears streaming down his face, Jardis hewed at the rats, shouting in wordless rage. Blood oozed from a dozen small, stinging wounds. Yet somehow he kept the vermin at bay as he backed toward the archway that led out of the hall. He was nearly there. Only a few paces more.
His glaive lodged in the body of one of the rats. The blade was torn from his hand and swept away by the surging mass. Weaponless, Jardis sprang back, scrambling over the living carpet of rats. Somehow he gained the archway, stumbling into the corridor beyond, but the rats followed. Jardis ran as blood poured into his eyes, blinding him. A rat leapt forward, gnawing the back of his knee, severing the tendons. Jardis cried out in agony, nearly fell, and lurched on. Another rat lunged for his back but missed, striking the leather purse at his belt instead. The purse tore open, spilling a spray of gold coins, as well as something bright and sparkling.