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 Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)

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DanielCoffey
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PostSubject: Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)   Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:37 pm

Remember to read these in order...

PART 1 : The Smallest Plaything
PART 2 : The Gate of Fear
PART 3 : Meeting the Family
PART 4 : Making a Man...
PART 5 : Face in the Crowd

Of course, Captain Varlos went back on his promise to Helixson to take Dustpaw to Qeynos, pocketed the coin and dumped Dustpaw on the Isle of the Overlord where he would be bound on a slaveship to Freeport.

Helixon was a bit miffed when he found out (in RP only of course since this is a fixed game mechanic). He paid for an Agent to travel to Freeport and infiltrate the City and Guild there to see what had happened to Dustpaw. Was he being held against his will? Could he be extracted safely and bought back to Qeynos?

Helixson had underestimated the resources the SIlver Circle Guild had at their disposal and although the Agent was able to find Dustpaw's apartment and get into it, the Silver Circle Enforcers were hot on the Agent's heels! They even turned the tables on Helixson! He woke up bound and surrounded in a storage area for frozen meat and got an in-character interrogation to ascertain his motives for what the Silver Circle viewed as the attempted kidnap of a Guild member.

Fortunately they accepted his explanation, blindfolded him and bundled him back out of the City and released him unharmed. Eventually Helixson became a "sponsor" for the young Dustpaw but never saw him in Qeynos.

Dustpaw was terrified by his encounter with the “Spy from the Qeynos-Nest”. This event coincided with the appearance of the Avatars of the New Gods. Dustpaw decided that he needed to travel to “The Gate of Fear” to obtain a powerful magical dagger to defend himself in case the spy ever returned.

A foolish objective indeed...

===



“Years of surviving the perils of the Underfoot
had taught him well, but by now, he was
smothered in cloying mud. The stink of decay had
made him virtually nose-blind. His eyes streamed
and hysterical sobs threatened to break from his
throat at any moment...”


===

DUSTPAW, THE GATE OF FEAR

The Herald on the Freeport Docks had spun a fantastic tale... the Gods were coming! Yes, the Gods were coming! For those who were especially brave, the rewards were great indeed...

... great indeed, muttered the drunken adventurer in the Bloodhaze. There was even a cave in a dark forest where a crazed Iksar would give the Faithful an enchanted dagger. A dagger so magical that it could bestow the wielder with the power of the Mad God of Fear himself! No enemy could bear to strike someone protected by the Faceless... the Fleshcrafter!

A useful blade indeed, thought Dustpaw as he padded up the sloping cartway rising above the smokes of the Harbor to the heights of North Freeport. With such a blade in his possession, there would be no way that Ratonga Spy would dare sneak up on him again and touch all his things...

===

The Drund outside the Temple of War looked down at Dustpaw and laughed. Great guffawing bellows made tears slide down the flabby grey cheeks of the Ogre's face.

"You wanna know where da Temple of da Faceless is? You wanna go dere? You?!?" the Ogre growled between fits of laughter. "You? Da Feerrott is not for da likes of you, youngster - da Thulians would gobble you up in a single bite! Go home, Ratling! Forget about da Temple of Cazic Thule an' da Cave of da Gate of Fear - go home!"

Dustpaw turned away and thought... the Feerrott, the Temple of Cazic Thule and a secret cave...

"Stupid Drund," he chirrupped to himself... "If yus had any brains yus would not have told I's all I's needed to know..."

===

The Clerk in the Academy of Arcane Sciences looked down at the young Ratonga in front of his desk. Pushing his spectacles up the bridge of his nose, the Erudite sighed...

"You want..." he began, glancing down at the note Dustpaw had proffered... "a map of the Feerrott showing the terrain and hazards in the area of the Temple of the Faceless? Why?"

Mindful of the mocking he had just received from the Drund, Dustpaw tried some subterfuge. Raising his voice and trying to sound young and unsure, he said "Excuse I's, but it is for a project I's been set for I's schooling. Master has asked I's to write an essay mimicking the journey of an adventurer from Freeport to the Temple of the Faceless, paying especial attention to the terrain and wildlife in the Great Jungle..."

He trailed off, trying to sound as though he hoped the Clerk would send him away without the map so that he would not have to do the assignment.

It worked.

"You are in luck, Ratling... I have here an old map of the Feerrott from several years ago. It is already a copy, so it is no loss if you ruin it. In fact, you can keep it - I have a newer one and the adventurer who penned this copy is long dead."

He passed over a folded parchment which Dustpaw took with trembling paws.

"Thank yus, kind sir. Thank yus..."

Bobbing and bowing as he went, Dustpaw fled from the Halls of the Academy.

Now all he needed was permission to go...

===

Clutching his Guild Pendant in the way Mister Xzott had showed him, Dustpaw cleared his throat and spoke...

"Um, General? I's was wondering..."

The tones of General Jalnur's voice echoed from the Pendant.

"Yes?"

"Because of the... er, trouble the other day, I's promised not to leave the City without permission, yis? Well, I's would like to speak to one of the Prophets who have come to teach us about the Gods..."

"You can leave the city Dustpaw, just stay safe."

Dustpaw took a breath then spoke the rest of his words in a rush...

"The one I's would like to talk to is very far away ... in a dangerous place too... I's think I's Invisibility spell would work... but well... the Feerrott is a nasty place for I's... so it would be good if I's told yus where I's was going, yis? From talking to other adventurers, it should be possible for I's to reach a hidden cave somewhere deep in the jungle safely enough..."

The reply came quickly...

"Oh, yes, Feerrott can be kinda nasty... do be cautious"

"Yis, I's will... the map I's have seen is very old - it does not show the cave, just the Lost Temple of the Mad God of Fear - do yus know where the cave is located?"

Again, Jalnur's tones came from the Pendant.

"Yes, it is past the temple of Cazic, just go past it till you hit a cliff wall, then follow the wall till you find the cave..."

And that was it. Permission...

===

"Are you sure about this, Ratling?" the Merchant Captain had said.

Dustpaw had been dropped off on the Drowning Causeway on the west shore of the Feerrott. Nodding his agreement, Dustpaw turned away from the ship and looked nervously around him.

The ancient stones of the causeway had been laid down centuries before by unknown hands. Now they were worn and slick with the sea spray. Below in the slimy waters, great shapes moved... waiting for a meal to drop from above. The wind soughed a dismal note as it brought the scent of rot and decay from the heavy forest ahead. The sailors who even now were hauling on their oars had warned him about the Huupics - the great grey blubbery beasts on the sands below the causeway. From this distance, their fat bodies looked comical... until the observer noticed their great fangs and wide, wide mouths.

Muttering a prayer for Belaska to watch over him, Dustpaw drew the Shroud of Invisibility round himself and picked his careful way over the stones...

...into the Jungle...

This part, the map had said, was named the Jungle of Alliz Evol. Of note were the Carrion Dregs - some sort of lizard, Giant Mosquitoes as big as a man and Snakes longer than an Ox cart. Also it warned of something called a Bitter Bloom. Dustpaw looked around at the great orchids - parasitic plants feeding on the decay. They looked toxic, yes, but harmless enough.

Advancing cautiously, Dustpaw was able to slip past several of the great lizards without arousing their suspicions. Even the snakes, green and brown ones thicker than the stoutest ropes he had ever seen, moved through the rotting greenery without spotting him. More confident in his Invisibility, Dustpaw advanced... and stumbled over a root.

A root which had definitely not been there a moment before.

Picking himself up and cursing his clumsiness, Dustpaw looked up and followed the root with his eyes... it trailed across the path and ended in a clump of greenery tall enough to hide a man. But no man was ever made of bark and leaves. As he stared, Dustpaw saw the mobile plant open a maw at it's crown and begin to extend feelers towards him. A Bitter Bloom... though the name "Biter Bloom" would be more accurate...

Scurrying backwards, Dustpaw managed to get out of range of the feelers before they could tighten around him. This plant was definitely aware of him and only chance had spared him from becoming its next meal.

Moving past the deadly Bloom, Dustpaw followed the ancient trail. The wandering Thulian patrols were easy to avoid, but the further he went into the Jungle, the more he realised what a terrible and fearful mistake he was making. More and more of the creatures were aware of him. A tongue tasted the air when he drew near... a change in the whine of the wings of a Mosquito... snuffling of the dreaded Underbrush Fiends, their poison stingers held high ready to strike... a fearful mistake indeed.

The area around the ruined Druid Ring was once a safe camp, according to the map, but one look at the swarms of Jungle Leapers waiting to devour the unwary made him want to hurry on.

Crawling over roots and under logs, Dustpaw made his cautious way east. Years of surviving the perils of the Underfoot had taught him well, but by now, he was smothered in cloying mud. The stink of decay had made him virtually nose-blind. His eyes streamed and hysterical sobs threatened to break from his throat at any moment...

He dragged himself over a pile of rotten bracken and looked down - far below him, the path he needed to follow passed between two high rocky walls. Overlooking the path, barely a few dozen yards away was a camp of Thulians - the Evol Ew themselves. The followers of the Faceless. So dedicated were they, that they clawed out their own eyes in tribute to their Dark God and took his power into their bodies in return. They saw Fear. They sensed their enemies and victims by their fear.

There was no way round the camp - no way past the camp. No way through the Thulians. The gully he was lying in drained down the bank onto the path... perhaps if he pushed himself slowly through the mud he could slip past them all? Making his way carefully, he squirned through the morass of muck untill only single treestump stood between him and the bank.

A single treestump... and a Thulian...

How he had missed it, he didn't know, but there it was. It turned quickly and lowered its sightless head to point its fang-filled muzzle directly at Dustpaw. A sibilant hiss escaped its jaws as it began the workings of a spell.

Panic filled Dustpaw's mind... and also an inner strength.

"I's will not die here in the mud! I's will *not*!"

He lunged with all his strength and darted between the Thulian and the treestump.

Not a second too soon! The noxious bolt the Thulian had aimed slammed into the tree, turning it to boiling goo in moments. Snarling its disappointment, the Thulian readied another bolt, this time aimed at Dustpaw's scurrying form. Losing his footing, Dustpaw fell and tumbled down the bank, bracken and brambles ripping at his face and paws.

The Thulian cast its spell. The Shamans among the Thulians prefered spells of disease and rot which could strike their victims down from afar. They didn't need to be accurate. The bolt itself was surrounded with a miasma of fear and decay, so even a near-miss was usually fatal.

Dustpaw was lifted from his feet as the full force of the spell hit another severed stump next to him. The wave of terrible energy bowled him over and over and flung his limp form right into the middle of the path. Feeling left his limbs as his mind spun... into darkness...


Last edited by DanielCoffey on Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:56 am; edited 3 times in total
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DanielCoffey
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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)   Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:39 pm


Dustpaw opened his eyes...

He was lying on his side in a sheltered place between some trees. Leaves were beneath him. His head swam and his side burned. Fuzzily, he thought he could make out the face of a female no-fur... a fair-skinned Elf of some kind. A male voice gruffly chided the female and told her to leave him - that she had done all she could - the kid would have to take his chances - the place was too dangerous to linger and they would not drag his useless corpse around all day. The female had turned, spoken some angry words to the male who was out of Dustpaw's sight, then returned her concerned gaze to the injury on his side. She spoke some soothing words in a foreign tongue and cool healing energy bathed his body.

Dustpaw passed out again...

===

The next time he awoke, it was almost dark... his side still ached, but less than he expected. More concerning though, was the fact that he felt ill. His head throbbed and he had developed a cough. Nausea roiled in his belly. Some after-effects of that Thulian's Curse, he presumed.

Glancing around, he realised that he was in a completely different part of the Jungle than the place with the path and the Thulian Camp. The trees were different - more twisted. There was masonary underfoot - old, old stones. Evil radiated from the bulk of a huge, dark edifice to his east. Great beasts lumbered through the trees about a hundred yards away.

The place he had been hidden by the no-furs was a simple shelter formed by three trees that had fallen towards each other in some storm years past. Leaves and dried bracken had formed a thick mat on the floor. From the look of the place, it had been used by passing adventurers as a camp - the ring of a fireplace with stones was cold but reassuring.

Crawling from the shelter, Dustpaw realised how weak he was. His hind legs wobbled and he found it hard to focus. He felt hot and prickly under his fur too. Pushing aside these problems, he looked at the building. The wall on this side ran... north and south and turned a corner to the south. On paws and knees, he made his way slowly to the corner and peered round.

Great bronze bowls filled with stinking oil burned on either side of a portal. Twisted beasts, mad creations of the Fleshcrafter stood guard. Huge stone statues with fire in their eyes roamed the pattways.

The Temple of Cazic Thule...

Despair filled his heart... and also hope! He was so close - his rescuers had carried him almost to his goal! Between him and the cave stood the Guardians of the Portal. One glimpse at them told him he would have no chance to evade them.

Just then, however, he heard sounds of battle from beyond the Portal.

A group of adventurers spilled from the gates and half ran, half dragged themselves straight past the fearful Guardians, who fell upon them with obvious delight! Fortunately the adventurers were strong enough to repel the beasts and with strident whistles and arcane words they summoned horses and flying carpets and swooped off into the darkness as though fifty fiends from the Hells were after them.

Seeing his one chance, Dustpaw gathered his soggy robes and scurried across the steps of the Portal and fled round to the east side of the Temple. Once back in darkness, he collapsed, head spinning and vomited. Another bout of coughing wracked his body and left him breathless.

"So close... don't fail I's now..." he murmered.

Washing his muzzle with precious water from his flask, he made his way round to the shores of a lake the map had promised was near the cave. The next few hundred yards were as though from a nightmare. Quite apart from the beasts and creations of the Faceless, Dustpaw was in a seriously bad way. Every few yards he had to stifle a cough lest some minion of Cazic Thule spotted him and devoured him.

Finally, he crawled into the welcome coolness of a tunnel mouth - here the terrible creatures deigned to let him pass... they were aware of him but merely looked at him as though his worth was beneath the trouble of killing him.

Onward... onward into the cave of the Gate of Fear...

...where words failed him. For long moments he just crouched and stared. The gate itself was a terrible construction, of course. The Great Eye was designed to make him feel Fear. The pulsating membrane that seperated this world from the one beyond made him feel Fear. For how long he was lost in a Trance, Dustpaw did not know, but it was a coughing fit brought on by the Thulian's magic that snapped him out of it. He wiped his muzzle on the back of a paw, not noticing the blood on his fur.

There... the Prophet of Fear... Danak Dhorentath himself!

Numbly, he staggered over to the Prophet. Brain fogged by Fear, he half heard the words... the commands. Eyes glazed with Terror he was dimly aware of something - a clawed weapon - being pushed into his unresisting paws.

Unfriendly hands pushed him away, and before another bout of hacking coughs could interrupt him, he mumbled his way through the phrases and cadances of the Call of the Overlord.

Moments later, body on auto-pilot, he fell through the door of his hovel in the Inn in Temple Street. Vaguely aware that he should not go near Meerka and her new Ratlings in his condition, he was too weakened to call for help on his Guild Pendant.

Unwashed, he collapsed onto the pile of cushions that served as his nest and let the fever take him...

===

The early morning sun was burning off the last of the fog blowing across Temple Street as Tchtchkir settled herself down. She had been beckoned over to the bench near the well by Missis Marbll one of the Ratonga matrons, an old friend and inveterate gossip.

"Yus missed all the fun last night, Tchtch - we had ourselves some good talkings..." Marbll began, offering a steaming cup.

Tchtchkir took the cup and sniffed - peppermint, fresh too - and raised an enquiring eyebrow.

"Oh yis? What did I's miss?"

"Yus know that young ratling, that Dustpaw who is new here?" Marbll asked.

Cautiously, remembering the incident with the Ratongan spy a few days earlier, Tchtchkir kept her voice even as she replied.

"Y-yis, I's think I's know the one..."

"Well, the no-fur Innkeeper saw him coming back yesterday afternoon - what a state he was in! Mud from snout to tail - yus could hardly see any fur! And the stink on him? It was terrible! Well, he staggered to his room - wounded, I's say - and closed the door..."

Concern for the young ratling flickered across her brow, so Tchtchkir quickly sipped the tea to hide her feelings...

"Mmm, this is good, Marbll - wounded did yus say? Youngsters these days are always getting into fights, yis? Such a shame..."

Warming to her subject, Marbll continued.

She told of how the ratling had gone to his room in the late afternoon and how, a few hours later, unearthly howlings had started... and then there was the smell... no, the stench... of decay. One of the Elders had gone up to the room which was on the highest floor of the ramshackle inn and sniffed at the door. There had been no reply to the polite knockings and the odour was very familiar. Moments later, a pot of red paint had been fetched and the sign-mark for "Plague" had been splattered across the door.

Aware that something had to be done, Marbll had sent one of her grandsons to the docks to look for a member of the House that the ratling was serving - the Val'Kaveks. While they were loath to admit it, they would rather a stranger entered the room and discovered what horrors lay within than risk infecting the closely knit Ratonga community.

Sure enough, minutes after dispatching him, the grandson had quickly returned with the no-fur named Ssinss who understood Ratongan and even some of their customs. Nodding her approval, Marbll called her grandson over, away from the no-fur.

The female Ssinss had argued briefly with the Innkeeper who tried to bar her way and climbed the stairs rapidly. She was obviously a healthy female and a fighter too, from her attire. Sending the curious Ratonga who were loitering on the stairs running, she paused for a moment studying the painted sign then smartly punched the door lock and broke it.

All had been quiet for a few minutes, then another no-fur - a Tier'dal - one who was known to be a healer arrived. His name was Xilinar and by his heavy armour, soiled from a recent battle, he had been summoned urgently. He too entered the room and pushed the door shut.

Quickly, the female had emerged and tossed some soiled clothing into one of the burning fires and hurried back into the room without a word.

Some twenty minutes later, the no-fur Ssinss came out carrying the limp body of the ratling Dustpaw carefully over one shoulder. He had been washed and dressed in a working robe - the one he wore when he was working in the Circle of Vaniki - but was clearly unconscious... or dead. She made it clear that the room was not to be entered and was under the protection of the Silver Circle and House Val'Kavek then left at great speed for the docks and then to Longshadow Alley, the home of the Tier'dal in the City.

Apparently, the healer had remained behind and despite his obvious status and rank, had insisted on cleaning the room himself - he had sluiced the floors down and poured many buckets carefully into the sewer grates. He then spoke to one of the Gnomes and waited while a new door and lock had been fitted to his satisfaction.

Closing the door and taking the key, he had then left.

"Such a shame, yis? said Marbll... "So young... I's was wondering what he had..."

Tchtchkir glanced over her shoulder to see what had interrupted Marbll's flow of conversation and almost dropped her cup.

There, walking slowly from the Dock towards the Inn was Dustpaw, still wearing his working robes, now creased. He was leaning on the walls and every few paces paused to regain his breath. He looked wobbly and his fur was badly in need of a comb. He made his unsteady way to the Inn and stopped to study the new door. Taking a key from a pocket, he let himself inside, locking the door behind him.

Tchtchkir and Marbll looked at each other...

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Nakia the Rogue
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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)   Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:33 am

Good. Next installment please.

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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)   Sun Sep 02, 2012 7:06 am

Patience, Grasshopper!

Part 3 is medium in length, part 4 is the huge one and part 5 is short... and remember... when they are posted, there are no more.
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PostSubject: Re: Dustpaw : The Gate of Fear (2 of 5)   Sun Sep 02, 2012 7:10 am

Yet the author still lives. There are other stories to write, other lives to tell about.

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