Tarsakh 14 1371 DR, Year of the Unstrung Harp
Deep within the stone walls of Helm's Hold, the orc leader named Brazer walked through the Hold's long narrow hallway. The orc's eyes glanced at the statues of Helm, the god of vigilance, in disgust. He reminded himself to order the men to "improve" the statues' appearance.
Standing at six foot, Brazer wore well made leather armor given to him by his chieftain many years ago. Over his left eye was a thin purple scar, given to him by the one of the clerics who had died defending the church. Brazer walked by a pile of mutilated corpses, wondering if all of the clerics had called out to their god before he and his men ravaged the temple.
Brazer grinned as he turned the corner. With the aid of his human spies (who were later disposed of by his troops) in the temple, as well as Neverwinter's un patrolled sewers, Brazer and his group of sixty of his best warriors, comprised mostly of orcs and hobgoblins invaded the temple. And this would only be the first in many victories to come, the orc said to himself.
Just as Brazer turned another corner, an orc approached him with caution. "Lord Brazer, we found something that might interest you. It has told us that the clerics here in Helm's Hold have chained it up for many years."
"Helm's Hold," Brazer asked, raising an eyebrow. "I think you mean the Hall of Gruumsh."
"Right sir, the Hall of Gruumsh," the orc repeated as he led Brazer into the altar room. More statues of Helm were erected in the four corners of the room, and tapestries depicting Helm's symbol; an upright gauntlet with an eye in the middle. In the middle of the room, stood a stone altar with a red book placed upon it. A summoning circle was drawn on the floor behind the altar.
Standing inside of the circle, a marilith, a demon who appeared as a somewhat attractive looking, six armed woman, with a giant snakelike tail that coiled around her body. All six of the demon's arms were chained to the floor. The marilith's eyes turned to the two orcs.
Brazer stood there, intrigued. The demon stared at the orc, saliva dripping from her small fangs; her eyes crying to be free from its prison.
"My lord," the demon growled in a low voice," I am Gargana. Those loathsome Helmite priests imprisoned me many years ago. If you release me, I promise to serve you."
The orc leader knew little about demons. In his youth, a shaman once told him that demons were scheming and would betray you at any moment. Yet, he also imagined the devastation Gargana could make if she were released into Neverwinter.
"What do I have to do?" Brazer asked.
The demon's lips twitched in a smile. "Just read the words in the leather-bound book that's sitting on the altar." Brazer nodded and walked over to the altar. He opened the book to the third page. It took him a moment to translate the text, the words were written in old elvish, in what appeared to be blood.
As the orc read from the book, his words echoed through out the room. The summoning circle vanished, and the demon ripped off her chains.
Throwing the chains aside, Gargana's eyes stared at Brazer once again. The orc began to think that the demon had deceived him, and was about to end his life.
Then the demon chanted a word in the abyssal language and reached all six of her arms behind her back and presented Brazer with a beautifully crafted double axe. The shaft and the blades were colored black, with a flame design etched all over the shaft.
"For freeing me," Chaohinon growled. "Now, what is your bidding?"
Brazer took the new weapon into his arms, as if he was cradling a newborn child. Like many orcs, he was specially trained in using the double axe. After hearing the demon's question, Brazer answered," We will destroy the city of Neverwinter, brick by brick."
Four days have passed since I've left my hometown of Solace. Although the experiment was months in the making, it all happened so fast. One moment, I was cleaning my plate at the Inn, and the next second, Mistress Jenna, Head of the Wizards Conclave (not to mention the wealthiest mage in all of Krynn) told me it was time to go. My somewhat peaceful life in Solace came to a halt in a matter of seconds.
For many months, Mistress Jenna was preparing to cast a successful gate spell to the world of Fauern. Jenna had all the components ready for the spell; she just needed a willing subject to go. The moment my ears heard Jenna's proposition, I jumped at the chance to go see this new world. My main reason was because my mother Eneyla used to tell me stories about Fauern. Stories about it's Great Glaciers, it's High Forests, and Purple Dragons. Mother never told me where she came from exactly, only that she was banished from her homeland.
I went with Jenna to her tower. She cast the gate spell, and in a flash, I was gone from the world of Krynn.
Mistress Jenna's spell was a success.
The spell had brought me to a city named Neverwinter. These past days, I've been staying at the Temple of the Just, learning what I can about Fauern and it's people. From the temple's library, I've learned about lands like Cormyr, Icewind Dale, and Thay. While staying in the temple, I've come across different races of elves, dwarves, and gnomes. Two types of humanoids that have astounded me are orcs and halflings. Orcs appear to me as smaller versions of ogres that resemble pigs, while halflings remind me of kender, except halflings are stouter...and when they take something that belongs to you, they at least know they did it, whether as kender, have no idea they did it at all.
The people at the temple have been kind. They've offered me food, and a room to sleep. They also give me chores to do. When I'm not doing either of those, I find myself helping training the temple guards. Using the experience I've gained from training with Solace's watchmen, as well as battles with dark knights, bugbears, goblins, and other dark creatures, I've managed to keep pace with the other guards. Recently there have been whispers that orcs have sieged a temple of Helm. a god of vigilance in Fauern. My gut tells me that I'll cross blades with them before I leave Neverwinter.
As I write this, I contemplate the choices I have before me. Do I try and find a way back to Krynn, or should I look for my mother's family. Maybe I should just settle in Neverwinter. Or maybe I should just go where the road takes me, no matter where the wind sweeps me.
- Tanis Grey
Tarsakh 14 1371 DR
Gripping the dish cloth with his wet hands, Tanis Grey finished drying the last dinner plate. The center and rim of the plate that was once covered with butter and sauce, was now clean. The half elf quickly placed the plate on the wooden shelf, and then ran a hand through his flaming red hair. There are many wounded staying in the temple tonight, thought Tanis as he brushed the sweat from his forehead. Mainly peasants from the Docks and Blacklake District.
One of the priestess of Tyr walked into the kitchen, watching Tanis as he straightened his linen shirt and leather breeches. "Thank you for your help," the blond haired priestess said with a toothless grin. She was a beautiful woman in her mid-twenties. "You may go and take your dinner in your room if you like."
Tanis smiled, his sky blue eyes gazing at the woman. "You're very welcome," he said in a calm voice," but I'll be doing some research this evening."
"Always the research," the priestess commented as she put some dirty dishes in the sink. Tanis stared at the dishes. While Tanis' eyes were distracted, the priestess caught a glimpse of the young man's slanted ears.
Tanis sighed, knowing the priestess had found the evidence of his elven heritage. If you only knew, the half elf said silently, remembering how his mother had named him after Tanis Half-Elven, a famous, though reluctant hero during the War of the Lance era.
After leaving the kitchen, Tanis went to the library, grabbed a book on the various races of elves in Fauern, then found a stone bench in the lobby of the temple. He opened the book with his left hand, turning to the article on drow elves. The sapphire ring on his finger glided smoothly off of the edges of the paper, as his eyes consumed the page of text, like a thirty dwarf drinking a pint of ale.
"Good evening sir," a calm feminine voice whispered from behind Tanis, causing his eyes to stop reading. Tanis looked over his shoulder, seeing the woman who had just spoken to him. A long brown cloak covered the majority of her body. He did however discover her dark skinned face and her grey colored eyes.
"Good evening milady," Tanis greeted with a warm smile. "Is there something I can help you with?"
The woman removed her hood, exposing her elven features. Her hair was long and white and her ears were slanted like Tanis'. Getting a better look at the woman, Tanis noticed that her dark skin was shiny and scaly. Remaining calm, Tanis waited to see what the drow woman was going to do.
The woman was caught off guard at Tanis' response. Normally when people set their eyes on her, they'd turn away because of the reputation drow have earned on the surface. "I was being chased by orcs and I seemed to have lost my coin purse," she purred in a soft voice.
Tanis raised an eyebrow. This was the last question he'd ever expect to hear from a dark elf, though he began to wonder if the books the temple had were misleading. Drow were known to be sneaky, merciless, and tricky. Maybe this was all just a con by the dark elf. Yet either way, he couldn't really help the woman, for he had no money of his own.
Before Tanis was about to speak, two burly temple guards walked over to Tanis and the woman. "Something going on here?" one of the guards asked.
"Everything is fine Barlow," answered Tanis, turning his head to the guards. "I was just about to explain to this woman-" Tanis stopped as he felt a small prick on the back of his neck. Behind him, the woman held a loaded hand crossbow to where his skull connected with his spinal cord..
"I'm taking him with me," the woman hissed. "If Tyr likes his temples to be clean, I suggest you refrain from chasing us. Otherwise, there will be bloodstains all over the floor."
The men growled, but stood by as the woman wrapped her left arm around Tanis, while still keeping her crossbow pointed at him with her right hand. Together, the woman and her half elven hostage walked out of the Temple of the Just and into Neverwinter's streets. Keeping her hold on him, the woman said," I am sorry that I had to drag you out of there like that. You can return to the temple shortly."
Tanis shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps later. I must ask. Why did you do that?"
The woman tilted her head. "It's hard for me to stay in temples very long. Whenever religious figures try to approach me, I lose it. Let's just leave it at that. As for the whole purse deal, it was a lie. What I really need is a strong arm to escort me back to my house."
Tanis nodded. He sensed that his new friend wasn't the religious type. "I didn't get your name from earlier," Tanis said softly as he and the stranger walked down a dark and empty alleyway.
The woman threw Tanis a sidelong glance. She brushed back her long white hair and answered," I didn't give it, but there will be time for introductions later. When you take me to my house in the Blacklake District, we can sit down and chat. That is, if you don't want to go back to the temple."
"My father taught me that it was rude to turn down a lady's request," Tanis replied with a smile. "But isn't that where the orcs are attacking?"
The woman nodded, then asked him," You're not afraid are you?"
Tanis shook his head. "Not at all. It's just if we do come across any orcs, I'd like to have a weapon at my side."
After successfully breaking into a closed weapon smith's shop and acquiring a weapon for her new friend, the woman led Tanis through the entrance to the Blacklake District. As they rounded the corner, she and Tanis came across four orcs wielding axes. When they noticed the young man and his dark skinned companion, the orcs growled.
This was the first time Tanis had ever seen orcs, besides the pictures in the books back at the temple. They were smaller than he'd expected, but they still slightly resembled pigs.
Two orcs charged at Tanis, causing the half elf's fighting instincts to take over. He drew the long sword the woman had stolen for him, and slashed it hard across an orc's gut. When the first orc fell, the second orc swung his axe at Tanis' face, but the half elf spun right, barely avoiding the orc's weapon.
With a quick thrust of his left hand, Tanis drove his long sword into the orc's belly.
Putting away her hand crossbow inside one of the magical pockets in her cloak, the dark skinned woman drew her repeating crossbow. She loaded the clip to her weapon and aimed it at one of the two remaining orcs. Her slender finger pulled the trigger, and three bolts flew from the crossbow, finding their way into the orc's throat.
Watching two his comrades lying dead, and other one gasping for air, the last orc turned and ran down the streets.
"The Neverwinter guards will get him," the woman said as she put her crossbow back in her cloak. "Besides orc's aren't all that tough."
That same thought about Neverwinter's guards catching the orc crossed Tanis' mind as he quickly put away his long sword. "You've got a pretty good weapon there," he commented, trying to take his mind off of the smell the of fresh orc blood that now covered his blade.
The woman blushed and walked over to a large wooden door. She reached onto her belt and drew a small set of lock picks. After finding the right pick, she went to work on the door. Five seconds later, the door opened. "There's some wine in the cupboard," she announced as she stepped inside.
Tanis hesitantly walked inside of the house. He had no idea who this woman was, except that she was skilled at firing crossbows and picking locks. The half elf wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Nevertheless, Tanis smiled as he walked inside. He quickly closed the door, then locked it.
Tanis had spent the last hour napping while the dark skinned woman watched the door. Before his nap, the half elf asked his new companion her name once more. She then introduced herself as Kaylah Iceheart.
Kaylah had briefly explained to Tanis that she was a daughter of a drow priestess and a half with human blood and yuan-ti blood, thus explaining her skin tone. When she asked about his heritage, Tanis told her that his mother was an elven bard from Fauern, who traveled to Krynn with a powerful archmage. While in Krynn, Tanis' mother had fallen in love with a man who was a member of the Steel Legionaries. Tanis also told Kaylah that his father had died in battle when he was three years old and that his mother died of sickness only four years ago.
Kaylah had laughed when she first thought the idea of Tanis coming from another world, but then he found a map lying on the floor, and studied it hard. She then mentioned names of famous Fauern heroes such as Drizzt DoUrden and Danilo Thann. Tanis had asked if they were characters in a book she wrote. While he was asleep, the rogue kept a careful eye on him.
When Tanis awoke, Kaylah was securing her bandoleer around her waist. Her cloak was hung over a wooden chair. Tanis guessed the cloak was either magical or had deep pockets, as Kaylah had pulled her two hand crossbows and her repeating crossbow and them all on the table. "Did you have a good nap?" she asked when she noticed the half elf was awake.
Tanis nodded. "Good I guess. Anything interesting happen while I was out?"
"Just more orcs running around," she responded with a smirk. "You handled yourself pretty well out there? Were you some sort of watchman in Solace?"
Tanis detected a small bit of sarcasm in her voice. "I used to train with the guard back home," he replied calmly. "I studied about orcs back at the temple, but never actually fought one before. I read about drow as well. It seems there was some truth when the text described drow as excellent fighters."
Kaylah shrugged. "I really wouldn't know. I lived with my father for most of my life," she said in a low voice. "We lived in Gildenglade until I was about twenty. Then I left home and traveled the eastern part of Fauern, bartending at different inns, to make a living. When I came home to see my father one night, I found his body on the floor with a dagger in her heart. On the hilt of the dagger was a spider. Later, the guards came and told me that a group of dark elves came to my house and murdered my father."
"I'm so sorry," Tanis whispered. "So what brought you to Neverwinter? Was your father's killer living somewhere in the city?"
Kaylah shook her head. "You must have not studied that book very well back at the library." She paused, seeing the confused look on his face. "Drow mainly make their home in the Underdark. My father's killer was a priestess of Lolth living in Ches Nasad. I later found out that one of the priestess' daughters was my mother, and that the priestess killed my father out of revenge. Once she discovered who I was, that really made her angry. Using every resource and tool my father had taught me, I've managed to escape the priestess' wrath. But someday I will avenge my father."
Tanis sighed. Hearing Kaylah's story, made him wonder if his mother's family would accept him. Remembering how his mother described the last moments she had with her own mother and father, he had about as much chance to be welcome by his mother's family as Kaylah did. Maybe even less.
"So besides killing orcs, reading about drow, and having a crossbow aimed at your back, how do you like it here in Fauern so far?" Kaylah asked as she stood up to get a glass of wine.
"It's interesting," Tanis answered. "I know that I have much more to learn in this world, but I suppose that Neverwinter is a good start. I will say this, there are no kender."
Kaylah took a sip of her wine, the sweet nectar flowing past her lips. She swallowed the liquid and made a puckering sound with her lips. "What's a kender?"
Tanis was just about to tell Kaylah that kender were a childlike race on Krynn. They were short like halflings, but they had ears like elves, and their hair was always in a topknot. Kender also had a knack of "borrowing" objects that didn't belong to them. The one thing that made kender special- in Tanis' view- was their innocence.
But the words never left the half elf's mouth. His and Kaylah's ears heard the sound of yelling coming from outside. Kaylah quickly picked up her hand crossbows, then heard the light screeching noises that followed the yelling. Tanis grabbed his long sword, and together they walked to the door-opened it-and peeked outside.
Standing in the middle of the streets were two hobgoblins, an orc, and a bugbear, blocking the paths of a man and a woman. The man was light skinned, and dressed in bronze colored plate armor. He had no hair on his oval shaped head, but there was a thin brown goatee on his lips and chin. The woman standing next to him, had tanned colored skin, and wore light a red colored silk robe. Tanis and Kaylah could clearly see the woman's pointy ears and light blond hair.
"You will go no further," growled the bugbear.
"Thomas, let's go back to the inn near the temple," pleaded the elven woman in her soft voice. The man addressed as Thomas turned to her. "But Nala, our belongings are back at the Silent Blade, and its only two blocks past these fiends."
"You should listen to your elven whore," spat one of the hobs, stroking his long sword.
"It really doesn't matter," said the other hobgoblin. "Brazer will soon own all of Neverwinter."
Ignoring the second hobgoblin's words, Thomas drew his weapon, a long sword with a sickle like blade, known to many as a khopesh. "By the pharaoh's wrath, you will pay for insulting the lady."
"Great a paladin," Kaylah whispered from the doorway as she stepped back and loaded her hand crossbow. Before she was finished, Tanis pushed the door open all the way and rushed out to aid the paladin and his elven maiden.
The hobs, the orc, and the bugbear turned as soon as they heard the half elf coming. This gave Thomas a moment to pray to his deity, Horus Re, a god from the land of Mulhorand. He then waited for the enemies to face him. The paladin refused to attack a foe when they weren't facing his direction.
Sadly Thomas never got his chance. Two crossbow bolts zipped past the half elf's ears, each one finding their way into a hobgoblin's throat.
Tanis stepped in front of the orc and gave a mighty swing with his sword, cutting the head off and sending it flying to the ground. The bugbear moved in to him, swinging his halberd at the half elf. Tanis stepped back to avoid the attack, but the bugbear's weapon scraped him hard across the shoulder.
Letting out a cry of anger, Tanis slashed his long sword across the bugbear's midsection, cutting through the skin. The bugbear attempted another swing of his halberd, but Tanis grabbed the part of the halberd's shaft, that just below the axe head and pushed the blunt end of the weapon, into the bugbear's chest. He then tossed the halberd away and stabbed his long sword deep into the bugbear's stomach.
"That's some decent fighting good sir," Thomas commented as the bugbear fell dead to the ground. "Tis a shame I never got to participate in the battle," The paladin walked over to the corpses of the hobgoblin. "You managed to take these hobs down without laying a finger on them."
Tanis laughed, but shook his head. This paladin named Thomas reminded Tanis of some of the Solamnic Knights back in Krynn. Many of the knights were good men, who upheld the values of honor, defending the helpless, and aiding the fair maidens of the world. Though in the last few years, the Knights of Solamnia had fallen into ruin, it was somewhat refreshing to see someone uphold similar values and morals like the knights of old.
Kaylah stepped outside and walked over to the three. Thomas and Nala traded odd glances, both keeping their thoughts-mainly Nala's- about Kaylah's heritage to themselves. After an awkward moment of silence, Thomas bowed to her. "Thank you for your help fair maiden."
The rogue smiled. "You're welcome. We have some wine back in the house," she offered, pointing to the house that she and Tanis had been resting for some of the night.
Thomas smiled and looked at Nala, who gave nodded back at him. "We would be honored to join you," the paladin answered," but tell me, isn't that a house that belongs to a wealthy merchant?"
"It does," Kaylah answered quickly," but my friend and I are borrowing it for the moment."
Thomas, paladin of Horus-Re raised an eyebrow. He wasn't too fond of breaking and entering, and he clearly saw that the drow and the half elf had clearly broken into the house. However, there were rumors that more orcs and other fiends were running around the Blacklake District, and he didn't want to risk Nala's safety. The paladin with his khopesh and his devotion, combined with Nala's magical abilities were enough to meet any challenge, but there was still a chance of being heavily out numbered.
Sensing the paladin was at odds with himself, Tanis smiled as he patted Thomas' arm, distracting the paladin from his thoughts. "Let's go inside, I'm curious to learn about this Horus-Re."
"So you're in Neverwinter because of the orcs?" Tanis asked, sipping his glass of wine.
Nala nodded, finishing her drink. Thomas held out his khopesh for Tanis and Kaylah to see. It was a beautiful weapon. Its hilt was made of adamantine, with small images of eagles carved around the design. The blade itself was made of steel. "I serve the god Horus-Re, who was actually known as Re at one time. Many years ago, during what they called the Orcgate Wars, the orc god Gruumsh killed Re in battle. The god Horus took up Re's mantle. Nala and I have traveled to Neverwinter to help rid the city of its orc menace.
"Interesting," remarked Kaylah as she sat next to Tanis. "How did you plan on defeating the orcs?"
Nala sat back in her chair. "We're waiting for some friends to arrive in Neverwinter. When they come, we will meet them and proceed to Helm's Hold. What you saw earlier, was Thomas and I going back to the inn in this district and retrieve some of our belongings, mainly my spell book. Luckily I remembered to memorize my spells this morning."
"Shouldn't be too hard to infiltrate Helm's Hold," Kaylah said before sipping her wine. "From what we've seen so far this evening, the orcs and their allies aren't very smart."
"I would not be so hasty as to judge one's intelligence, drow," echoed a deep voice from the open doorway. A tall elderly man with a thick grey beard appeared at the door, with four Neverwinter guards standing next to him. "If you're going to break into someone's house, the least you could do is keep the door closed."
Tanis and Kaylah grabbed their weapons. Thomas put a hand on the hilt of his khopesh, but Nala stopped him. "Before you say or do anything," the wizard announced," know that if you resist us, we are in every right to kill you."
"What do you want," demanded Tanis as he stood up, shielding Kaylah.
The wizard gave a wicked smile. "Lady Udeen Carmine, marshal of Neverwinter's forces, would like to have a word with you. All of you."
Marshall Udeen Carmine, a short and pretty woman, wearing a white surrcoat with a blue tabard on the front, entered the room, glancing at each person who stood in her quarters. Her light brown hair bounced on her shoulders as she stepped over to her desk. Her eyes lingered on the handsome half elven man, for just a second longer than the other three. This drew a glare from the woman who resembled a dark elf.
The marshal sat at her desk and looked at the four. "Some of my men told me you cut down some orcs this evening."
Thomas bowed. "It was Sir Tanis and Lady Kaylah who did much of the cutting down." He smiled at Udeen, which resulted in Nala punching him in the shoulder.
The marshal tapped her fingers on her desk. Her eyes turned to Tanis and Kaylah. "Perhaps you both could help Thomas and Nala here defeat the orc leaders that hold Helm's Hold."
Tanis looked at Kaylah, who shrugged. "Well I'm up for killing more orcs," he said in a delighted voice, disguising the discomfort he was feeling. The rogue giggled and hooked her arm around his, as if to give the marshal the idea that they were more than just friends.
The marshal grinned at them both. "Good, than you both will act as scouts whole I talk to Thomas and Nala about an important matter."
Tanis and Kaylah quickly turned to leave. Before they stepped into the hall, Tanis caught the marshal's eyes staring at him.
At a quickened pace, Tanis and Kaylah moved through Neverwinter's streets. The only source of light were magical torches that sat on top of long metal poles, and the silver moon that lay in the dark sky. Keeping to the shadows, the half elf and the rogue made sure to keep their eyes, and ears open.
"You sure wanted to get out of that room quickly," Kaylah whispered, trying to spark up a conversation as she and her companion continued towards Helm's Hold.
Tanis sighed, remembering the marshal's eyes on him. "I felt a little uncomfortable with her staring at me like that."
Me too, Kaylah added silently. Her eyes peered down the street, seeing two orcs standing guard at the gates of Helm's Hold. "We could easily take them," she whispered into his ear as the two orcs walked behind the gates. "Just let me get my crossbow."
"Don't you ever fight up close?" Tanis asked curiously.
Kaylah responded with a sly smile. "I do, but fighting weak opponents like orcs, I would rather waste my bolts, than waste my arm strength."
"Weak huh?" growled a loud voice from behind them. Tanis and Kaylah turned around, seeing a group of six orcs with weapons drawn.
Kaylah reached into her cloak, but instead of pulling out her crossbows, she drew out two short swords, one with a black colored hilt, and the other, a red colored hilt with no crosspiece.
Two orcs charged Kaylah, their spears aiming at her stomach. The rogue easily stepped out of the way of the spears, then swiped the black hilted sword in her right hand in a low semi-circle, knocking the one of the spears away. She then stabbed the red hilted sword in her left hand into the throat of the weaponless orc.
The other orc jabbed his spear at Kaylah's neck. The rogue weaved in and out, easily evading the orc's feeble attempts to hit her with his weapon. She then responded to the orc's misses by stabbing both of her blades deeply into the orc's belly.
Across from Kaylah, Tanis had a harder time fighting the other orcs, as he could only block and parry their spears with his long sword. One of the orcs did manage to stab the tip of his spear across Tanis' cheek. Another orc swung his low, cutting a thin line through Tanis' breeches and into his ankle.
Tanis growled, trying to keep his balance. He stabbed his long sword at one orc, ripping through the chest. After the orc gasped his last breath, Tanis pulled his sword free and faced the remaining three orcs.
Three more spears came at Tanis, poking around his chest, almost toying with him. This time he barely managed to dodge the spears.
With a smile, Tanis drove his long sword deeply into an orc's chest cavity, breaking a few of the orc's ribs. He pulled his blade free and watched as the orc fell to the ground.
He expected the other orcs to attack, but once he held his sword in his hand, the remaining two orcs were lying dead on the ground.
"Well I fought close, are you happy?" Kaylah asked, putting her short swords away. "The sword in my right hand, I call Slice, and the sword in my left hand, I call Dice."
Tanis smiled, putting his own sword away. "It looks like they lived up to their names." Kaylah gave a prideful smile and was about to tell him that her father gave her those weapons, but then a loud scream came from the courtyard of Helm's Hold.
Tanis heard the scream too, but to him it sounded more like a battle cry, then a cry for help. Together, he and Kaylah ran past the gates and into the courtyard. Standing in the middle of the vast courtyard, a small female humanoid dressed in dirty leathers- a halfling, by Kaylah's and Tanis' estimates- was surrounded by two orcs, three goblins, and a bugbear. They watched as the halfling held a great axe in her hands. They both feared the small woman would be torn to pieces.
In the middle, the halfling woman's lips curled in a smile. Using lightning fast movement, the halfling slashed her weapon into the bugbear's chest. She then spun in a fierce circle, her axe cutting through the bodies of the three goblins and the two orcs. The goblins fell lifeless to the ground, while the orcs grabbed their stomachs to hold in the blood that was flowing from their bodies.
Wasting no time, the halfling drove her sharp axe through one orc's body, then turned and cleaved the other orc down the middle.
"Nothing like taking on six at once," the halfling commented, strapping her axe over her back. She then bent down and reached into one orc's mouth and ripped out a long fang, then did the same to the other orc.
Tanis smiled. This was the first time he had ever seen a halfling. In the books back at the temple, they described halflings as peaceful folk who were well suited for the role of thievery. Though she was small, this halfling had managed to slay all six of her foes, without even getting so much as a scratch.
Walking closer, Tanis saw the halfling's short and curly brown hair. Dirt and grime covered much of her face, but beneath it, lie the smile of a beautiful halfling female. Yet now, she was searching each of the dead bodies finding copper and silver. Standing behind Tanis, Kaylah looked down at the corpses made by the halfling, seeing the deep gashes her axe had made.
When she saw the half elf walking towards her, the halfling smiled up at Tanis. "Nice night for killing orcs isn't it. I saw what you and your drow elf friend did earlier tonight to those ones near the Blacklake, good work. My name is Freya Skogrull by the way."
"I'm Tanis, and my friend is Kaylah. You took those men out pretty easily," he indicated, pointing to the bodies of those the halfling killed.
"Tis what I do," Freya declared in a sweet voice. "I am a horde breaker. I'm here to help Neverwinter rid itself of the orcs." Tanis had no idea what a horde breaker was, but Kaylah did. A horde breaker was described someone as going around the High Forest and the Silver Marshes, and just cleaning out camps of orcs, bugbears, goblins, and other creatures that gathered in horde camps. The rogue suspected that Freya had been involved in her fair share of orc killing.
Is everyone coming to Neverwinter just to kill orcs? Tanis asked himself. "Are you planning on going inside the Hold?"
"I was thinking about it?" Freya answered with a shrug. "Why?"
The half elf looked at Kaylah, who was thinking the same idea he was, then back at the halfling. "Perhaps you could help us with a small matter. It involves killing many orcs."
Freya brought the axe from her back and put the end of the of it on the ground. "I'm listening."
Brazer held his double-axe close to him, then stared at the demon, who was summoning fellow denizens from the abyss. Brazer stared at the demon. He had asked the marilith why she hadn't gone out to destroy the city already. The demon responded by telling the orc leader that she needed aid from the lower planes, as the forces of Neverwinter were many, and she was but one demon.
The orc gritted his teeth. If what his spies had told him was true, Neverwinter's forces were amassing any minute.
The demon opened her eyes and looked at Brazer. "The summoning is completed. My minions and I will attack the temple of Tyr. I am confident that your men will join me." Brazer nodded. He had planned to sent all of his men, but then decided to keep some of them here. The demon smiled and continued," You however, should wait here until the city is ready to meet their new ruler."
The orc watched as the marilith vanished. He walked over to his makeshift throne that was made from large slabs of broken stone. Holding his weapon, Brazer would listen to the demon's suggestion and wait until Neverwinter was within his grasp.
Brazer's orcs ran down the hallway. The statues of Helm that stood in the corners were now painted in a light green and their helmets had been chipped by orcs in an attempt to resemble their one-eyed god Gruumsh.
Keeping to the shadows, Tanis, Kaylah, and Freya waited for a group of orcs to run past them, into the room ahead. "So let me get this right," Freya asked Tanis once the last orc shut the door. "You're a half elf that came from another world where there are no halflings or orcs, and you madam, are a drow elf with snake blood in her."
"Well not really snake blood," Kaylah corrected her. "My father was part yuan-ti."
"Right," the horde breaker answered in a skeptical voice.
Tanis shook his head and looked at Kaylah. "She doesn't believe us."
Freya reached up and put her hand on Tanis' shoulder. "It's not that I don't believe you," she said in a tender voice. "It's just that what you're saying doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's like my second cousin, the infamous Regis Rumblebelly used to say-" she stopped when she saw the confused look on Tanis' face. "You've heard of Regis, haven't you?"
Tanis shrugged. "Is he another famous book character like Drizzit DoUrden or Danillio Thann?"
The halfling looked at Kaylah and remarked," He is from another world."
Kaylah giggled and reached inside of her cloak, pulling out her repeating crossbow. She heard some footsteps come from behind her, and turned to face the culprit making the notice. Tanis and Freya drew their weapons as they heard the sound of the footsteps coming close.
"Sir Tanis and Lady Kaylah. It is good to see you're ready for battle," a familiar voice spoke from in front of them. Throwing up the hood of his invisibility cloak, Thomas smiled at the rogue and half elf, then looked at the halfling. "It seems we have young halfling maiden with us."
Freya blushed lightly. Behind Thomas, Nala emerged from beneath her own invisibility cloak. In her hands, she held a small blue book. Noticing the book in the elf's hands, Kaylah asked," Is that your spell book?"
Nala shook her head. "Not at all. Marshall Udeen gave us this book to summon the Guardian of the temple."
This is what the marshal wanted to see them about, thought Tanis. He listened as Nala explained about the demon the orcs might have released.
After Nala finished talking, Thomas added," I myself would like to find the demon myself and vanquish it."
Tanis sighed, then walked up to the door of the room where the orcs ran into. Standing at the door, with his friends behind him, reminded Tanis of the games he and his friends used to play back home. Now was a completely different situation.
As they quietly entered the room, they looked over at a long table that sat in the middle of the room, where nine orcs were eating scraps of meat and bread. With a gesture of the wizard's hand and a quiet chant of a few words in draconic tongue, a spell was cast, putting three of the orcs to sleep. Five of the other orcs stared at the sleeping orcs, wondering what in Gruumsh's name had happened. One orc however, turned to see Tanis and the others.
Kaylah raised her crossbow, aiming it at the orc, then fired. Two bolts zipped through the air, and into the orc's forehead.
One of the orcs stayed back to wake his sleeping comrades while the four charged the intruders. Crying a prayer to Horus-Re, Thomas drew his khopesh and ran at the closest orc, slashing his blade upward. The paladin's strike was true, as the khopesh sliced through the middle of the orc's face, breaking through to the back of his skull.
Kaylah stayed near Nala, providing cover for the wizard as she chanted a spell to help protect Thomas and Tanis. The rogue fired three bolts at the orcs who were coming close to Tanis. Two of them missed, but one bolt did manage to hit an orc in the thigh. Tanis easily finished the wounded orc with a quick thrust into the neck.
Tanis turned to face the other two orcs surrounding him, but his eyes spotted Freya's axe swinging wildly though the air, cutting through one of the orcs. The halfling growled the other orc, and rammed her shoulder into the orc's chest, then gave a fierce swing of her axe, cutting off the orc's head.
After loading her crossbow with a fresh clip, Kaylah aimed her weapon at the orc who was trying to wake his comrades and fired five bolts. This time all five of her bolts managed to hit their intended target.
As the orc slumped over on the table, Nala looked at the others. "Quickly, we have slit their throats before the spell wears off."
A look of uneasiness crossed the paladin's face as he said," We should let them fight an honest battle." Nala sighed in frustration, not wanting to argue with her lover. Tanis looked at Thomas. For a moment, the paladin reminded Tanis of his young human friend from Northern Ergoth named Tasslehoff. Like Tanis, Tas was named after one of the most famous heroes in all of Krynn. Tasslehoff was also well on his way to becoming a Knight of the Crown, the first rank in the Solamnic Knighthood. Tasslehoof always believed in giving enemies a fair fight.
"There is no honor in orcs," Freya spat, breaking Tanis' reminiscing. The halfling walked over to the three sleeping orcs, and pulled a dagger from her boot. One by one, she slit each throat. After the orcs were dead, she reached into each orc's mouth and pulled out a long fang.
Thomas turned away, his face red with anger. The elven wizard walked over to him and wrapped an arms around him. The paladin glanced over at Tanis, then looked over at the portrait of Helm on the wall, that was now ripped in many places.
Tanis walked over to Kaylah, who was searching the bodies of the two orcs Tanis had killed. "Find anything good?" the half elf asked, hoping that the rogue could lighten up the somber mood that filled the room.
Kaylah shook her head. "Orcs usually have nothing good." She looked at Tanis and asked," So what do we do after this? Assuming we survive the battle and all."
The half elf shrugged. "I'm not sure. I was planning on going to a couple of cities… A Silver Moon, or maybe even travel to this Baldur's Gate and meet the man who lives there. I am however curious to know about this "we" business."
The rogue smiled and looked up at him. "Well you're pretty decent at combat, and you're somewhat of a leader. I think I'll keep you." She laughed, then added," but in all seriousness I'm curious as to what other talents and skills you have."
This made the half's face turn red. "My mother did name me after Tanis Half-Elven, who many people would say was a good leader."
"Tanis Half-Elven?" Kaylah asked curiously. "Is he some character you made up." They shared a laugh together, and for that moment alone, it seemed like nothing else mattered in the world.
After their laughter was done, Freya looted the other corpses, while Thomas and Nala read from the book Marshall Udeen had given them. Tanis smiled at Kaylah and said," After being Fauern for four days, the best thing about it was meeting you."
It was the rogue's turn to blush. She thanked him for the compliment, but then quickly cleared her throat and held her crossbow in her hands. The half elf laughed as he looked at the door that led into what he thought would be another hallway. "With that being said," Tanis said in a loud voice," Let's go kill some more orcs."
The halfling let out a loud battle cry that echoed through out the room. If their presence wasn't known throughout the temple before, it was now.
In the central part of the city, many of Neverwinter's guards were lined up together, their swords in one hand, and their shields in the other. The only thing the soldiers held that was stronger than the two, was the courage and hope they had in their hearts.
Stepping to the front line, Marshall Udeen wore her golden plate armor, carrying her two handed sword. She whispered a prayer to her god Tyr, then stared ahead, waiting for the enemy.
She didn't have to wait long, as a small force, comprised of orcs, bugbears, and hobgoblins marched through the streets, their eyes looking towards the army of Neverwinter guards who awaited them. In the back of the group, marched dretches, a lower class of demon from the abyss.
The small army stopped several feet from Neverwinter's warriors. Part of the marshal believed that the battle was in their favor, that is until the marilith materialized in front of the soldiers. In each of her six hands was a barbed long sword, and her eyes glowed a bright red color. "So this is what Neverwinter conjures to save herself," Gargana bellowed.
"We are but a small force in Neverwinter's defenses," Udeen shouted. "Take your men and leave the city, or suffer a horrible defeat."
Gargana was amused by this human's words. The marilith made a mental note to kills this upstart of a commander herself.
I pray Thomas and Nala can release the Guardian before it's too late, the marshal said in her mind. Then she gave the order for her men to attack.
The group of five moved quickly up the stairs and through the next door. To their surprise they didn't find any orcs. Instead there were two ogres, sleeping sound fully on the floor.
"It looks like they didn't hear us," whispered Tanis, who put a finger to his lips. "If we can keep quiet, we can slip past them."
"To the abyss with letting them sleep, I say we give them a chance to defend themselves," objected Thomas, who was still a little upset about the whole slitting the sleeping orcs fiasco, that took place minutes ago.
Kaylah kept her silence, but gave the half elf a look that said she agreed with sneaking past them. Nala wanted to cast a spell to make them invisible.
"I agree with the tin man," Freya remarked, holding her great axe. "I say we wake them up." Tanis sighed, drawing his sword.
"Think you could wake them up?" he asked Nala. The wizard nodded, then made hands gestures similar to the ones she made when she cast the sleep spell on the orcs.
A loud hideous cackle filled the room, and the two ogres, who were enjoying a short break from their guard duties, snapped their eyes open and quickly spotted the intruders. They were on their feet in a flash, holding their battle axes.
"For the glory of the Pharaoh," cried Thomas, as he charged the first ogre, with his khopesh forward. He stopped five feet in front of the beast, and stabbed his weapon into the chest area. The ogre stepped back, the paladin's weapon lightly scratching against his leathery skin. With a growl, the ogre swung his battle axe in the paladin's direction.
The edge of the sharp axe cut across Thomas' face. The paladin felt a thin trail of blood run down his cheek just as he sidestepped the ogre's next swing. Crying another prayer to his god, Thomas thrust his khopesh deeply into the ogre's heart.
Tanis was about to run at the second ogre, but once again, Freya arrived there first.
The halfling stopped in front of the ogre, taunting him with rude gesture of her hand. The ogre gave a mighty swing with his axe, but the halfling's reflexes proved superior, as she dodged the axe, then jumped into air and swung her great axe at the ogre's head. Using reflexes of his own, the ogre reached up with his hand and caught Freya by her throat.
With a grin, the ogre threw the halfling across the room. Her body went crashing through the top of the wooden doorway that led into a long narrow hallway.
Anger surged through Kaylah's body as she drew both Slice and Dice. From the doorway, she heard a series of screeches that sounded like goblins. Though she couldn't understand what they were saying, the rogue guessed that they came across the fallen halfling.
As Kaylah ran at the ogre, Nala chanted one of her more powerful spells to aid the halfling. The five goblins who now stood over the halfling, jabbed their short spears down into her body, but then stopped when two of the spears broke as soon as they impacted with the horde breaker's new stone like skin.
Freya's eyes snapped open. She glanced down, noticing the new rough grayish skin tone her skin had taken on. Grabbing the axe that fell from her hands when she crashed through the door, Freya sprang to her feet and let out a terrible cry of rage. She spun in a furious circle, her great axe cleaving and hacking through the bodies of all five goblins.
In the room, Tanis and Kaylah flanked the ogre together, slashing their blades in their foe's midsection. The ogre managed to block all the attacks the half elf and the rogue threw at him, then slashed his axe low, deeply cutting Tanis' hip. The half elf parried the next attack the ogre made, then watched as the tips of both Slice and Dice ripped through the ogre's body.
"It appears ogres in Fauern are as fierce as the ones in Krynn," Tanis remarked, trying to suppress the pain in his lower body.
Kaylah stepped over to Tanis, patting him on the back. Freya was at work, looting the bodies of the dead goblins. In the corner of the room, Thomas and Nala stepped near a drawn circle.
"Nala, this is where we have to perform the ritual," the paladin announced.
Holding the blue book, Udeen had given them, the wizard walked over to Thomas and opened the book.
In the middle of the room, Tanis and Kaylah sat on top one of the dead ogres. "Are you going to be able to walk?" the rogue asked him noticing the deep cut on his hip.
Tanis gave her a smile. "Just a scratch, nothing to worry about. I'm more anxious just to finish the night." The rogue nodded, then reached into her cloak and pulled out a small vial with blue liquid contained within it. Tanis smiled and took the vial, knowing that it was a healing potion. He quickly popped the cork open and drank it down. The potion had a bland taste to it, but the half elf didn't seem to mind, as the cut on his hip was now mending.
Tanis peeked at his wound once the mending seemed to be done. What was once a deep cut was now just a faint scar. He looked at Kaylah, then stood up. "Well I'm ready to go."
Kaylah stood back up, still holding her short swords. Once she heard Tanis' words, Freya left the goblin corpses and walked over to the half elf. Thomas and Nala wore a solemn expressions on their faces. "Nala has to finish summoning the guardian," Thomas stated with a sigh," and I must stay to protect her."
Tanis gave the paladin a nod. "I'm sure it will work out in the end. Good luck."
"Same to you," the paladin of Horus-Re replied to Tanis.
With a half smile, Tanis turned to follow Kaylah and Freya, who were now stepping over the pile of broken wood, and goblin parts.
Standing in the main altar room, Brazer finished putting on his armor and gauntlets. Reaching out with his hand, he grabbed the double axe the marilith had given him. He knew of the intruders who had come into the Hall of Gruumsh and killed many of his men. Just like Gargana and his men were going to crush Neverwinter's forces, he was going to crush the intruders like gnats.
It was devastation across Neverwinter's cobblestone streets. The combined power of Gargana and her fellow demons, along with Brazer's horde, had lost many warriors, but at the same time, exhausted much of the city guard who had come out to face them.
All around Udeen, bodies of goblins, orcs, and men lay dead on the cold ground. Several feet away, the marilith stabbed all six of her weapons through one of the Neverwinter guards. She then set her eyes on the marshal and slithered towards her.
But then something happened that Gargana had not anticipated. A twelve foot man covered in plate armor appeared in front of Marshall Udeen.
Udeen looked around, seeing only four of her men. She called to fall back. Three of the men, who had finished killing a dretch and a couple of hobgoblins, raced to their commander, but one fell to the blades of two bugbears.
Gargana hissed in anger as she stabbed all six of her blades at the twelve foot armored man, who was known to the Udeen, and the few Helmites left in the city as the Guardian. The Guardian quickly drew his own sword and blocked all six of the demon's weapons. The Guardian then held his sword in the air and shouted words in what Udeen guessed was Celestial tongue. The marilith screamed as her body slowly faded away from the battle.
The surviving dretches Gargana had summoned vanished as well. The few orcs and bugbears huddled together and watched as Udeen held her sword in salute to the Guardian. The tall being looked down at the group of orcs and bugbears, and held his sword high in the air, which resulted with the enemies to flee for their lives.
Marshall Udeen looked back at her men. "Well boys, who wants orc and bugbear cutlets?"
Tanis, Kaylah, and Freya entered a large room. In the center of the room was a tall pedestal. Like the other rooms in Helm's Hold, the statues and paintings dedicated to Helm were now chipped and torn into ruin. The only distinguishable property they had, was the dark red eye painted on them.
After looking at the once beautiful statues of the Vigiliant One, Tanis watched a muscular orc walked to the center of the room. "So you are the intruders who walk into the temple of Grummsh," Brazer declared in a harsh voice. "Just as my men are crushing Neverwinter at this very moment, I will crush you."
Tanis drew his sword. He guessed the orc leader had no idea that a being called the Guardian was on his way to help Neverwinter. Freya held her axe, while Kaylah held her short swords at her side.
Brazer stepped towards Kaylah, twirling his double axe above his head. He then made a sweeping motion towards Kaylah's head, but the rogue ducked the axe and made two stabs with her blades. Brazer moved his weapon just in time to block both short swords. He then twirled his weapon in a full circle, both ends slashed the rogue in her face.
While Kaylah covered her face to stop the bleeding, Freya moved behind the orc in an attempt to slice her weapon through his back, an orc, who had been hiding, jumped from the shadows, landing on top of the halfling. Screaming in rage, the horde breaker rolled on top of the orc and began pummeling him.
Tanis and Brazer circled each other for a moment. The orc hated elves, and he would enjoy tearing this half breed apart. He easily deflected Tanis' long sword when the half elf slashed at his stomach, then spun the his double axe like a staff. The smooth side of the axe blade slapped Tanis hard in the face.
The half elf spat a little blood, then let out a gasp as the orc's axe came at him, cutting vertically across his chest. Brazer's axe didn't go through too deep, just enough to make it bleed and hurt like the Nine Hells.
Using his willpower to suppress the pain, Tanis sidestepped Brazer's next attack, then cut his long sword across Brazer's left shoulder. The orc stepped back, twirling his double axe above his head. This gave Tanis the opportunity he needed.
Before Brazer could bring his axe down to strike, the half elf lunged forward, driving his sword deeply into the orc's chest. Wasting no time, Tanis pulled his sword free, and blocked the orc's next attack. He spun right, leaving a hole in his defenses, but the orc leader was too slow to react. Then with one hard stroke of the blade, Tanis lobbed off Brazer's head.
Freya and Kaylah both stood up and looked at Tanis, who was breathing hard. The half elf stood over the corpse of his headless foe. "You can have the teeth and gold if you want Freya."
The halfling nodded, then walked over to Brazer. She eyed the orc's double axe and looked at Tanis. "Did you want his weapon?" she asked.
Tanis shook his head and smiled as Kaylah handed him another healing potion. "If you want it." The halfling smiled as she picked up the weapon. Both Tanis and Kaylah were surprised at how easily the horde breaker handled the weapon. She spun it around a few times, then sighed as she left her great axe next to Brazer's corpse.
Kaylah smiled at Tanis. "She looks good with the weapon," she remarked.
"She does," agreed Tanis as he smiled at her. It had been an interesting evening for Tanis Grey. The best thing about it all, was meeting new friends, especially Kaylah. He smiled at the rogue and she smiled at him.
The half elf had a slight feeling that this would be the first of many adventures together.
Back at the Temple of the Just, Marshall Udeen presented Thomas, Nala, and Freya with medals. The paladin and the wizard were surprised to see that Freya had taken a bath, brushed her hair, and wore a small silk blue dress with high heel shoes. They also noticed the double axe the horde breaker carried. When they asked her where she got it, Freya simply told them that it had been a gift.
The marshal began to look around for the half elf and the rogue. She had not seen them return with the halfling. "Where could they be?" she asked.
Freya shrugged. "When we left the Hold, Kalyah said something about her and Tanis needing to go look for something."
Sitting in the house-with the door locked this time- Kaylah and Tanis were relaxing, sipping wine and looking over maps they had found. "So I'm thinking we should go through Silverymoon and go to Baldurs Gate," the rogue suggested, taking a sip of her wine. "Good place to make money, especially killing orcs and bugbears. We could probably find a giant or a troll."
Tanis shook his head. "I' fought a troll once back home. Tas and I almost died trying to finish it. It wasn't till we realized that we needed fire to kill it, that we actually did it."
Kaylah sighed and looked at him. "You miss your home don't you?"
Tanis nodded. "I do, but I think I could get used to this place."
The rogue smiled and rose from her seat. "Good, because I needed someone to give this sword to." She walked over to one of the cupboards and opened it. Reaching inside, she pulled down a beautifully crafted long sword. The pommel was a blue, molded into the shape of a dragon's neck and head with leather grip. The sword had a thin silver crosspiece, and a slender, razor edged silver blade. There was a small note attached to it. Kaylah presented the sword to Tanis, who read the note.
To Lord Walrus a.k.a Mirt,
When ye find a warrior in Waterdeep worthy enough to wield this brilliant sword known as Dragonclaw, make sure ye give him the scabbard this time ye twit.
Elminster of Shadowdale
Postscript: If some lad or lass happens to come across this blade, by ways of stealing it most likely, then ye have my permission to take it, as this will teach Mirt not to leave his possessions unattended.
After reading the note, Tanis stared at the sword. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. "Are you sure I'm allowed to keep this?" the half elf asked.
Kaylah shrugged. "The note says so. Besides, Mirt is rich enough to buy a new sword anyways."
"Aye," nodded Tanis. "I've heard of this Elminster, but I'm guessing Mirt is some kind of man who looks like a walrus."
"Something like that," answered Kaylah, looking away. She quickly reached down and plucked her glass of wine from the table. After finishing it, she looked at Tanis and said," I'm going to lay down for a little bit."
Tanis nodded, then watched her walk away. When she went upstairs, he let out a chuckle. Things were going to be interesting from now as he explored this world that was new to him.