Somewhere along the way...

   
Somewhere along the way...

It had been stormy for several evenings as the small band of adventurers plodded along their course. Their mission had been clear and they had precious little time to complete their task. However, there was something odd with this particular evening. Lightning forked across the sky, illuminating the landscape with a haunting purple glow. Above the crack of thunder and the howl of the gusting wind, little else could be heard.

But, the hairs on the back of each of their necks was a subconscious message that something was amiss.

As they stopped to rest for a moment, Lorem's sharp eyes caught a lone figure approaching the party from out of the cover of night. He approached with an odd hobble and had an uncomfortable presence for most. His eyes and hair were wild and unkempt. His clothing hung from his frame in tatters. His skin was wrinkled and loose and hung in a way that made it easy to see his bone structure underneath.

Though the storm's presence made it difficult to hear most anything, the man's voice was clear. "We need help." It was a simple sentence coupled with a point of his bony finger towards the northwest. In the distance, a cluster of hills could be spotted just beyond a ravine. When the party members looked back to the man, he was gone. A cold chill danced over each of their bodies as a brilliant flash of lightning filled the land with light. The party was once again alone...

Joachim was slightly shivering as he tucked along with the others. It certainly felt of little comfort to be in an completely metal suit of armor on top of an winged horse in the middle of a thunderstorm. Also it was cold without his long hair, something he had not come to realise just yet. Joachim looked at the near by trees, well at least something was sticking out more then he was. At least the lightning had chance to miss him. And yet ... Metal had strange poperties as he had been taught. It was a good reason not to battle in such weather.

Then that ... a stranger. Joachim had barely seen him and the scare was so big that he barely managed to keep in his saddle if not for Artax' experience he would have certainly tasted the mud. For a moment Joachim's face becomes serious and simpathetic a plead for help, over there in the hills. This was a job for him, saviour of poor souls lost and without aid, he ... As Joachim was about to start his introductory speech and assurance he would check things out he was cut short by the simple ... well lack of existence of the man. "... wa ... where did he go?" The paladin asks confused as he is shaken by yet another thunder. A little to near for his taste.

In fear of being struck or similar Joachim unmounts his horse. He smiles to the others, "Well at least it's not raining..." and of course such profecy was never one done in such a situation, as the rules of story telling are written and as certainty of such words is to be followed by the worse case cenario one could imagine that would contradict these words. So in fact it did not rain, rather a hailstorm broke loose on their heads. At least here Joachim had an slight advantage, his helm held of the small spherical bits of ice well.

"I guess we ought to search cover, we might as well check out those hills and see if we find any housing or similar..." The paladin suggest to the party of lone adventurers. "... Harod any spells to get us out of this one?" He adds as a bigger ice particle hits him on his unprotected nose.

The rain was miserable for Harrod ... he had spent many months in prison with a fire elemental that had taught him to be in all essence ... fire itself; or as close as a fleshling like himself could get to being fire without burning up. Not only did it seem to weigh him down mentally, it weighed his body down as his crimson robes became saturated ... they seemed to weigh a ton as he trudged through the mud.

The appearance of the skeletal man was cause to stop a moment ... friend or foe became the thought before fight or flight. Looking from deep within the shadow of his cowl, he chose friend and neither. But then, with the sudden onset of hail, the man vanished. Whether it was the hail, the rain, or the darkness ... he didn't care now, the hail was forcing theym to seek shelter.

"No I can't! That's not my repartee ... if you want an army blown up, that's me! If you want the world to catch fire and burn forever ... that's me! Protection from water or failing balls of ice is not me! You had better find something solid to stand under!" The mage took off at a run, passing through the area where the old man had been standing ... not bothering to even look for the old sod.

"Towards the hills! Whoever needs help might have shelter!" The thought of them needing help didn't even cross his mind, only of the shelter they could provide.

Taking care to avoid the ravine, quickly filling with the run off from the rain ... if he didn't like rain or hail, he certainly wouldn't like being tossed about in a gusher like that. The ravine's steep slopes soon widened and flattened as the soaked crew closed in on the beginnings of the ravine. Just beyond, a dark opening in one of the hills was illuminated by a quick, brilliant flash of lightning. No light could be seen from this distance, one hundred yards would be a quick but painful sprint through the sharp bites of hail ...

The rain felt good against his skin, cooling him from the days traveling. He had always loved storms, the power, the inability to stop if, even if he had wanted to. It was the only feeling of helplessness he ever felt, and it actually felt good. Seeing the figures that Harrod and the others saw, Tamrik saw that something might be gained from this little venture, and started to run alongside the others as they all took off to help, everybody besides Garak of course, who thought about the best way to find himself of use.

He slowed as he passed by Garak, he spoke softly into the man's ear... I know there might be treasure here... Why don't you have a look around as we take the eyes away from you... Tamrik smiled as he ran away from the man, sword in hand, ready to fight.

The hills were further away than they seemed, and for the next hour, the party trudged along, no cover in sight, accompanied only by the sting of the hail and the clanging of the ice stones off the paladin's armor. Finally, they crested over the first ridge...

Below, in the valley, the scene was gruesome but odd.

Two score men were fighting a gargantuan humanoid. Bodies lay all about, broken and torn to varying degrees. As violent as it appeared though, it was eerily silent. The participants fought with great fury, but not a sound was made as blades met steel and bone. Those who fell to the obviously stronger creature did so without an audible word.

To those with careful eyes, you note that you can see clean through all in the valley. The one who had spoken to you previously was spotted running back into the battle. A moment later, he was split into quarters as the center creature's weapon destroyed his body. His blood sprayed all about, coating the field with yet another dose of the red liquid.

All of a sudden the storm stops revealing a full moon on an cloudless nightly sky. If this was not otherworldly enough to aid the feeling of supernatural, all creatures on the field simply exploded into smithereens as well as the Gargantuan creature which could only mean one of two: the work of a god or that of an illusion.

Joachim looked around frantically, his mind was trying to resist. Something. He remembered something. Yes Gerwin was not here. He had met Gerwin not to long ago. He had finally found her. As if realising something that was not true and should be his mind slipped out a natural barrier like no other could. There were things that stood beyond the powers of even the strongest illusions to hold up against. It sure was a time for odd things. But it had been this last memory that gave Joachim the final power to overcome what there was to overcome. "Sorry guys, but Gerwin waits for me." Both the paladin and his horse imploded leaving a small puddle of blood behind.

"Erm hey guys ... I ... think ... I ... well let me put it like this ... overdid it a bit." The voice came from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. "Yeah, let me put it this way. I gave you something, back at the tavern. No way you could have not been exposed to it. It's my thing. I had some questions and doubts and thought you might aid me answering them." The voice started to focus on a spot, the road ahead to be precise. "So I ... well I ... articulated this dream ... it is quiet realistic ... and ... well ... is in a sense ... had the help of a mage friend of mine ... anyhow ... it seems ... I got you stuck in here for a time span I am not able to control ..." as if this lack of control where to show a figure started to materialize where the voice had been focusing. "... It kind of got out of my hands, it's the problem with drugs you know." The figure shrugged its shoulders. "Anyhow, the bottom line being we are stuck in a dream our common minds generated with our common hopes, fears and the usual dream stuff. A pretty random world under the control of our subconsciousness. The problem of this particular dream being ... it's magically generated."

The man of average structure was pretty hooded up. He wore a cotton scarf around his face revealing only his orange grey eyes. From the upper side the pointy hood of his cloak covered his white hair almost completely. His clothing being all died in black colours but mainly covered by the cloak anyhow. "Well it's not the usual way I meet people, but ... hey I'm Dread, I'm an elf of sorts if you want so." He looked over at the horned evil looking fellow in the group and wove his right hand happily his eyes showing a sign of a smile "Hey Garak, guess I got to you after all."

In an instant, a pair of weapons appeared in Garak's hands. He moved with incredible speed, but the weapons seemed to literally appear out of nowhere. One was a rapier and the other was a kukri. Both were of flawless craftsmanship and were completely made of a black material that seemed to absorb light.

Before the elf spoke, Garak knew this was an enemy...but an equal all the same. He had only met the other in a dream, yet it was one that felt very real---just as it was now. Was this a dream? A moment of confusion took control of Garak's mind, but he quickly recovered and assumed a defensive crouch. Already, arcane words were beginning to form on his lips. In a moment, he could unleash a variety of talents to aid him in the battle that he knew would happen.

Yet...

There had been something about this Dread that Garak had come to respect in his dream. Was Dread a part of his own mind---his own personality? Was this Dread the darkest part of Garak's own being?

Just then, the ground started shaking once again. It appeared that perhaps his answers would have to come later...

"Woah wow ... calm down. I was hoping we could do all of this without hard feelings." The figure was backing away slightly. It showed however no other kind of fear or reaction. If it had weapons they did not come to show. "Now, now..." And then the ground shook.

"For crying out loud" The neutral voice of Dread, did not make it clear if he was angry, scolding, happy, surprised, confused, or what else. "What next there is going to shoot a tower out of the ground having some sort of goal in on the very top floor that we should achieve?" And as Dread was still forming words a circular tower rose towards the skies. It's stone walls rotating making the whole thing remind one of a screw of some sort. The roof being made of red roof tiles and at the very top of it's spire a dragon like metal object coming to show.

Dread rolled his eyes. "Common, seriously?" He folded his arms in front of him. "Now like I said this is our combined consciousness ... so ... I mean ... be careful what you think, one would not find himself in the middle of a giant bowl of goblin stew ..." Dread glanced at Garaks blades. "Also, please be careful what you do with those, you might hurt someone. Given the nature of this dream, I'm not sure to what extend it might influence the place we call reality. Yeah, would really appreciate that, hm ... thanks."

Despite the sudden appearance of the tower, Garak chuckled at Dread's comment about his blades hurting somebody. "That is the idea, friend."

The other's words then sank in. Dream? How did this other know it was a dream when the tiefling had no idea. He had little time to ponder that logic, as the tower obviously was quickly becoming a potential threat.

"We've never met before, yet you know my name and I have a strong urge to kill you on the spot for just being you. Unfortunately, it appears we have no time at present to sort that out."

Just as Garak considered simply fading into the shadows and leaving this strange situation, the tower stopped moving. It stretched to a considerable height and how presented the pair of men with a large black door at its base. Oddly, the ground continued to shake, but with much less volume and energy. Looking around for a potential source, they were able to spot countless goblins charging towards the tower from all directions. It appeared as if there were few choices left.

"Somebody will die for all of this."

He nodded towards the door. "It seems like we have no choice other than an alliance. Somehow I know you are a vile, but capable bastard. I can respect those qualities. I somehow also know that despite both of our respective interests in death, destruction, and misery, we know the value of honor." Garak was one of the most evil and terrible beings on the planet, but when he gave his word, he followed it. His blades disappeared in an instant, just as they had so suddenly come into view. He extended one of his hands to the other. "Until we can resolve this situation, I will not bring harm to you. Should I be able, I will protect your back. In exchange, you agree to the same." He gave the other a wicked smile. "Once we're done here though, all bets are off."

Dread lifted his eyebrow at Garak, Friend? The hooded figure had to smile, although nothing, but the small features and sparkle around and in his eyes would reveal such, due to the bandage like scarf he wore. He did not fear the blades, nor the harm that could come from them, death was something he was acquainted with, something that some day would seek him out. He was ready for that day, but knew full well it was not now. It was never going to be the day until it actually was, the day.

"Ahh ..." Dread sighted, didn't Garak remember him. He had sought him out once. He had looked for a challenge, posed the shadow of a thiefling a deadly proposal. A course of deadly traps. It had been refused. Dread didn't mind.

Somebody would die for all of this. Garak had spoken. In fact three of the on charging goblins had just fallen, victim to a carefully thrown needle found at the base of their necks, well to be just, a poisoned needle, but there was no way of knowing. These three were, but a drop in an ocean of million more, so it was more a symbolical act then anything else. Dread seemed relaxed, in fact if one had not payed close attention to him one might actually not have seen him throw the needle at all. His focus was entirely on Garak, the possible rest of the group of creatures in this dream world seemingly ignored.

Dread gave forth what sounded like a yawn, then laughter. "Yes honour, I am familiar with it, however it's a very subjective thing..." the goblins where getting into bow range "... one's conduct might be that of having none other then that very same of following no other conduct but his..." they continued to get closer "... but!, perhaps this is not the proper time to philosophise ..." 90 feet "... rest assured I will not further harm you, and work with you when possible, besides I take no interest in killing without a challenge..." 50 feet "... Not to say you are no challenge, but there would be no personal point behind it ..." 30 feet "Again, I loose myself in Philosophies. After you." Dread had somehow gotten next to the tower door he had even gone so far as to open it, he was now courteously bowing giving Garak the universal after you gesture.




 

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