This story is my first attempt at a really action-packed, seat-of-your-pants type writing. It involves a very capable monk named Stoopingtemper and yours truly, though that was by his request. =P
I hope you find the little hidden nuances of the game that I built in to this, I did a little research before writing it to make sure it is relevant and accurate. Of course because it is me, there's some humor in it too. Hehe...
ROLL DEM BONES
Requested by: Stoopingtemper
Subject(s): Stoopingtemper and Phyree
Setting: Kuftal Tunnel
* * * * *
It was noontime. Not such an uncommon time, though this particular loaction falls into that category of commonality. The oasis inside Rabao was abuzz with bathers, water fetchers, a few fishers, and all manner of playful children that splashed in the cool waters. Desert winds powered windmills that pumped water to other dryer parts of the camp. Another form of aquatic conveyance was utilized in one corner of the pond, however. A white-furred hand dipped into the cool water and brought an ample gulp to thirsty lips.
Stoopingtemper wiped his mouth. He was one of the first galka to return to Zepwell Island since Korroloka Tunnel was reopened. The monk wanted to return to his invaded homeland and help restore it to its former glory...prior to the Antican invasion from so long ago.
The solitary monk had caught wind that there lay a tunnel to the west which was filled with corruption. By night, vile undead crawled from beneath the sands of the Altepa desert to attack caravans and travellers. One skeletal raid was even made upon the camp of Rabao! Stoopingtemper could not allow this.
Before setting out into the sands, he grabbed his trusty pair of knuckles. The metal glinted in the sun and made the monk even more intimidating. Stoopingtemper had seen a lot in his life. His body carried the scars from his adventures, but the treasures as well. He was clad in the mighty garb of ancient monks from yore. This was a matter of pride to the galkan monk to be considered a piece of living history for his order of fighters.
Rabao grew smaller and more distant with each step. Normal folk could not endure the intense heat and exhaustion, but Stoopingtemper was far from normal. His mind was as strong as his muscles and he held complete control over his being. Galkan mitts opened and closed in anticipation of the hunt. Stoopingtemper only stopped to check his map and drink a swig of water. If the rumors as to its location were true, he had to head due north into a small canyon.
From behind him came a high-pitched chittering. One of his peoples' ancient foes, an Antical, came screaming toward him. Stoopingtemper smiled and licked dry lips. Meaty fingers slid into his kunckles' grooves and slid off his belt. The creature closed quickly and took initiative with a high swing of its sword. Stoopingtemper ducked the swipe and sent an uppercut into its gut. The Antican's shell caved in slightly, but was seemingly unscathed.
"Guess I should stop playing with you and show you my full power!"
The monk wailed into the beastman. It parried several smacks and landed a gash in Stoopingtemper's shoulder. This only angered the galka more and in a flurry of blows, unleased a devastating three-part combo. The assaulting Antican heaved a groan and collapsed face-first in the grit. If it were alive to take insult with injury, Stoopingtemper murmered an ancient prayer known only to his order and healed his wounds, leaving no trace that he had been damaged at all. He was on his way once more and soon found a hole leading below the desert.
"This is it. It's time for work." The sun had finished its arc during Stoopingtemper's desert jaunt and night was an hour away from falling. It was an appropriate backdrop made even more real by a chill wind and almost sigh or moan coming from deep in the earth.
Down and down the path led, and the tunnel grew darker. "This cave...or should I say tomb?...has not been touched in ages. Perhaps my great, grandreincarnations had once explored these passages." Stoopingtemper reached into his pack and withdrew a mystical yagudo torch he aquired on his journies in the world. It flared with crackling radiance and provided some heat and light to the monk. Lizards scurried out of his way, and he had to dispatch of a few crabs whose territory they must have thought was being impeded upon. Tough knuckles made short work of the chitenous creatures.
Stuck on the claw of one of the crabs was an old metal key. The monk had no problem breaking it off and aquiring the item. "Hmmm, there must have been some kind of treasure kept down here. If that's the case...are there people down here too? Perhaps this place is not as abandonded as I thought." Stoopingtemper continued onward. He rounded a corner minutes later and just beyond the light of his torch, his sharp eyes caught movement. He crept forward some and the torch slowly revealed a walking skeleton. The living dead. It turned around and met Stoopingtemper with hollow eye sockets.
Having fought these abberations of nature before, the monk knew that they could not see...but instead posessed an incredible aura for detecting the living. Skeletons were known to prey upon the weak and would follow blood trails for miles. They also could detect sounds, even ones as slight as breating or a heartbeat. A second skeleton appeared by the first but was just as ghastly. Stoopingtemper's hair was bristled. He charged forward and shoulder-tackled the first into the second. Both undead immediatly began fighting, their hate for the living apparent.
They were tough, their bones were hardened through the conditions in which they lived. Stoopingtemper had never fought skeletons like this before...to his enjoyment. "Finally, a true challenge!" A dragon kick ended the attack. The monk literally took the feet out from under the first with the opening kick while the second decapitate the other walking set of remains. Both undead fell unmoving to the ground. He heard a noise behind him and spun around.
If not for his mithralike reflexes, the young woman in front of him would have been knocked out cold. A metal band across powerful knuckles hovered an inch away from her face. She winced in reflex. Judging from her white and red robes, Stoopingtemper figured the blonde hume in front of her was of the white mage order.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
The woman stammered, "M-m-m-my n-n-name is Ph-Phyree s-s-sir." She looked away from him sheepishly.
"That answers one question, what about the next?"
"I-I-I was sent here by my order to investigate the evils that lay under the sands of Altepa. I s-s-saw you in the distance heading the same direction and I f-f-f-followed you. I must have lost track of my stealth spells when I was watching you fight...sir." Phyree's hands wrung themselves the whole time. Stoopingtemper wondered how the hume's order could ever entrust her to such a monumental feat if this is how she carried herself.
"Don't call me 'sir'? I have a name."
"W-what is it?"
"That certainly sounds galkan to me." Phyree laughed nervously, trying to make a joke to ease her mind. Stoopingtemper simply humphed as after all this was a name given to him by humes in Bastok and, he felt, degraded the glorious names galkas used to call each other. Sadly, those days were gone...Stoopingtemper didn't have a galkan name, only the one given to him by others.
"Very well then, Phyree, come with me." Phyree nodded in response and stuck close to the light-bearing Stoopingtemper. Tunnels wound round and round, and several other times they encountered more fearsome undead. The fights went smoother with the white mage's curative and protective magic. With her help, Stoopingtemper hit faster and against weaker enemies. Enfeeblement spells and even positively-charged cure spells were used against the foul horrors.
Soon after their last battle, Phyree motioned quietly to her galkan companion. "Psst, look over there." Stoopingtemper leaned beyond the rock outcropping hiding them. There they saw three humes mulling about a makeshift camp. Strapped to what appeared to be an improvised stone altar appeared to be a woman struggling against her bindings. One of the men began chanting a spell. The second sprinkled some kind of powder on the victim. The third raised a ceremonial dagger high in the air and plunged it down into the sacrifice.
Phyree went to gasp, but Stoopingtemper's hand was quick to cover her mouth and restrain her. The woman's body shook violently and finally settled. Her skin began to peel and fall away until all that was left was a skeleton. The bones slowly sat up after being freed from its bindings. One of the men commanded it, and it lurked off in another direction. There were empty manacles on the wall next to this chamber and all were empty.
"This is what must have happened to those abductees and caravans," the monk trailed. Sacrificed to the darkness to serve these dark mages. They didn't hear behind them, but a skeleton approached. Clawlike fingers raked down Phyree's back and she screamed from pain and fright. The three humes looked to the darkness from their camp and began panicking, packing things sloppily and fled into the dark cave system. Stoopingtemper wheeled around and pummeled the undead creature. He then rushed forward after the dark ones, but stopped in their camp. It smelled horrible...like death itself...
"What do you make of this, mage?" Phyree was already starting to rifle through the items, studying the material. As she did, the monk saw a large coffer and remembered the key he posessed. Trying it in the lock, the box opened. Inside lay a map of the system. No doubt the three humes had cartographed their home in order to plan attacks and escapes. Stoopingtemper folded the map up, saving it for his use later as well as to copy back in Rabao for all who galka who sought to return to more parts of their old homeland.
"Mr. Temper, this is some very serious stuff. I know now why I was sent here. These are the blackest of the black magics...necromancy. There are many dark pacts here that I care not to repeat nor even think about. This place must be destroyed as well as the knowledge with it." Two steps ahead, Stoopingtemper used his yagudo torch to begin burning all he could.
What seemed to be an entire army of undead appeared around the edge of the fire. Dozens of skeletons closed in on Phyree and Stoopingtemper. They were in grave danger, literally. The galka knew that he must protect the hume, and the hume thought the same thing. Diaga was cast and all the skeletons began an aggrivated charge after being accosted. Phyree let loose a torrent of divine magic, banishing the undead to parts unknown. Stoopingtemper focused on himself and let fly a blast of his inner chi. The release also tapped into his soul and his body tightened. A hundred fists flew, enhanced by Phyree's magic. Skeletons collapsed left and right. Soon there were none left in the chamber but for the two living beings.
"The thing is, Ms. White Mage," the galka puffed, "is that there are still three pieces of information to dispose of."
"What do you-" she started then stopped, realizing what they must do. She grimly nodded, catching her breath.
"There are two exits here, according to their map," he started, "we should split up."
"No need," she hung her head, "there's a contingent of the Royal Knights and Healing Corps by the second exit you mentioned. That's my," she forced it through her teeth and tears, "backup unit." Phyree balled her fists in frustration. "They said that they would travel through Gustav tunnel which faced the same undead troubles and camp outside this enterance 'just in case'. Stupid elvaan!" Phyree openly wept.
Stoopingtemper picked up on her story. Phyree was the only hume in the contingent from San d'Oria. The "courageous" elvaan sent the only hume...a female at that...into the lion's den as they were too scared themselves to go. He wrapped his strong but gentle arms around here, comforting her. He too knew what it felt like to be made fun of and ridiculed and placed in danger just by his race. Now the roles were reversed on the hume.
"Come then Miss Phyree," he soothed, "we must stop these men. If your contingent truly is waiting in Cape Terrigan, then we must cut the dark ones off before they can escape to the vast desert of Altepa." Phyree looked up and smiled, nodding.
A gloved hand wiped away a tear, "L-let's go then...thank you."
Stoopingtemper used the map to navigate the tunnels flawlessly. The two were fast approaching the exit and heard movement ahead. In the dark and without their guidance, the men seemed to have been delayed.
"Stop, offenders to life!" The men froze at the command. They were close to the mouth of the tunnel and the monk knew that he had to act now. They were caught surprised.
"How did you survive our undead army," shouted one.
"Relax brother, they will die here and now to us!" The man who had cast the dark spell before began casting again. The one who weilded the dagger began a charge. Phyree knew her monk friend could handle him, but she saw the alchemist reach into his pouch. Quickly the white mage blinded him, preventing him from accurately throwing his mysterious powders.
Stoopingtemper took a gash to the forearm from the knife. His blood burned...he was poisoned. He didn't have time to shout as Phyree was trying to silence the magic-user. It was no use. Both the monk and white mage were enveloped in burning fire. They writhed with pain. Phyree winced and once more tried to silence the black mage. The new spell cut off and the brother panicked. He went to run but Phyree used the little black magic she knew to bind him to place.
The alchemist brother finally fluttered his eyes open. Seeing his older, bigger brother in combat with the galka, he decided to turn to the white mage. He took the staff off of his back and went in for the kill, hoping to see the woman's brains splatter across the cave floor. Phyree blocked the swing with her shield but lost her footing when the man skillfully used his staff to rumble the rock beneath her. Phyree fell on her backside.
Stoopingtemper looked over. "Phyree! No!" He took a stab to the gut this time, but at this point the monk didn't care. He spun around, closing the distance and gave the alchemist a backhanded blow to the back of his head. The man fell foward. Phyree scampered to her feet and cast a cure spell on the ailing galka. He renewed his attack but was stunned by the black mage brother's new-found voice.
"Come Gordov, I will cover our escape! Dervo, get to your feet and hurry!"
"Coming Gizrel!" The backhanded brother staggered to his feet and up toward the exit.
Gordov evaded a swipe from Stoopingtemper and turned on heel. The largest of the three brothers, he was better-abled for combat...or escaping it. "Escape, of course! Gizrel you idiot!" He slapped his younger brother upside the head.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think to-" he was cut off by Dervo who hissed for their escape. All three began running up to the home-stretch. Stoopingtemper coughed up blood from the poisoned wound to his stomach as well as from the pain to the one on his arm. Phyree stood up, determined, and cast one of her most powerful spells - Holy. Upon her command, the entire cave was filled with divine light. The dark brothers recoiled and squirmed in the burning light.
Stoopingtemper took the opportunity to wobble to his feet and run forward. Enraged, he used his second most potent attack his order had taught him...Asuran Fists. The brothers all caught multiple galkan mitts on the face and were sent over the cliff nearby the enterance. They broke on the rocks below in an ironic similarity to their victims on the altar.
"There really should be a safety railing there," the monk for the first time attempted to joke. He winced and fell to his knees.
Phyree rushed up and removed Stoopingtemper's poison. With the last of her energy she cast a simple cure spell to close his wounds. She collapsed unconscious against him. The galka smiled wide and picked her up, relying on his legendary vitality to keep him going. He managed the tunnel system and by dawn had reached the exit to Cape Terrigan. Sure enough there was a troupe of elvaan, just waking up and preparing breakfast. They all sat up quickly and drew their weapons as they saw a hulking beast approach.
"Hold your weapons, brave warriors," his satire did not hit them yet until he produced a sleeping white mage, "She completed her job that you sent her to do. Phyree here is braver and stronger than all of you combined. You all should be ashamed to call yourselves knights."
"We don't have to take this from a lowly galka like you!"
"Grr!" He took a step forward, growling, and the elvaan shrunk back. Having made the "brave" warrior flinch, Stoopingtemper was content. He disappeared back into the tunnel to return to his home in the deserts of Altepa...to Rabao the Oasis. His homeland was safe once more and after he was done copying the maps of the tunnel, more accessible too.
He looked at the noonday sun after emerging from the other end of the tunnel and smiled.
Edited, Fri Nov 18 16:45:55 2005 by Phyree