The Price of Salvation

On the other side of the vortex the group found themselves in a large forest. The sweet smell of summer flowers filled the air, along with the smell of blood and ozone. Crusher was dead, and Agthork was not far from joining her in her fait. Hacker did first aid on Agthork to try and stop his bleeding. The vortex generator was smoking badly, and had a large charred spot on it. The group was surprised when they saw a group of men on horse back. There where about seven men on horse back. All of them where dressed in armor, but four of them where dressed in more fancy looking armor, and clothing. Three of those where all older men, each with a different symbol on their chest plates. The other was a very young man, maybe only eighteen or so. He was in the middle of the group. He also had a small crown the hung on the top of his helm. The remaining three men all had simple looking armor on, except for the one that seemed to be leading the group forward. His armor might have been great and glorious at one time, but now is was very battle warn, dented in places, but still held the age of greatness with in it. This man approached the group.

"You are trespassing on the Kings privet hunting ground!", he said as he lifted his visor. This man had a large scare running across his face. The young man, motioned to on of the guards standing near him, and whispered into his hear. Viper and Glory, using their exceptional hearing, over heard his say something about the strange clothing, and equipment that they had on. He said they might be wizards, and that they should take extra care. The guard that the young man had been talking to quickly moved over an relayed the wishes of the young man. The large man on horse back responded by telling them to drop their weapons and equipment, that they would be taken back to the castle to be judged. The group seeing how badly hurt Agthork was, and how Crusher had died, they quickly asked what would happen to their friend. The man said they he would be taken care of by the healer. A messenger arrived on horse back, and went strait to the young man. He told him that the extra guards where on the way along with the carts.

Viper, and the rest of his team where ordered to strip down to nothing. At this point is when they realized the Glory was not normal. She was unable to remove some of the armor that Hacker had welded onto her. Shortly after they started stripping is when the two carts arrived. One was a normal flat wooded card, that had two drivers and two horse pulling it. The second was the one the team would get to know well. This cart was more of an armored stage couch. It was only about five feet high, had three small bared windows, two on each side, and one on the door. The couch was made of iron and wood. The team was given rags to put on, and they where loaded onto the cage couch. They could see several guards where placing their equipment onto the other cart, along with Agthork and the body of Crusher.

The cart with Agthork and their equipment was rushed off a head of them, along with several guards. As they traveled in the cart, the could see the forest that they where in stretch out to a wide river. It was hard, but they could see farms on and around the river. At first the ride had been ever bumpy, but now it was smooth, and they could see that they where on a flattened dirt road. This road would lead them to a large stone wall, and gate. Just past the gate was a village of some kind. The streets were filled with people, and children. They watched as they road past. Some people, just looked, some yelled, and some even threw things. The group could see several buildings, some where obvious, like the blacksmith with his great stone chimney, and forge. The inns all had large signs that indicated drink and lodging. But there where several other building that they did not know. They could also see an open market, were merchants where selling all kinds of odds and ends. Several fruit stands could be seen, as well as one stand that had strange roots and herbs. The road they where on, led them under a second stone wall, and inside the main court yard of the castle.

The team was escorted from the cage coach to the dungeon under the castle. The dungeon was a damp odd smelling room.. It had an octagonal shape to it. It was about ten feet deep, and about as wide. The main door was about three feet above the floor, and a set of stone steps led along the wall and to the floor. There was a drainage grate in the center of the floor. A small window, maybe a foot wide, and four inches high was their only look to the outside, and this was about nine feet off the ground. Glory was looking over the walls, and wondered if she could punch her way out, when a man called from the door. It was the same man they had talked to when they first arrived. He said that the King wanted to speak with the leader of their group. Viper, being the only member there who had been with the team the longest, volunteered.

Viper was given better clothing, and a quick freshening up before he was to speak with the King. When Viper entered the thrown room, sitting on the thrown was the young man that he had seen earlier that day. Standing on either side of the King were two people. One was a bald man dressed in a dark blue cloak. There was a large golden clasp that hooked onto the cloak. The clasp had some symbol on it that Viper did not understand. The other was a very attractive woman, she had on a dark red cloak, which also had a clasp, but hers was silver and had a different symbol. She had long dark hair that ran down to her lower back. She has a small silver circlet on her head. This circlet had a small jewel that dangled down and rested in the center of her forehead, just above her eyes. She also had one additional feature that made her stand out from the rest of the people he had seen. Her ears. Viper had heard about them, just like every kid growing up, but with the kind of work he was in, he tended to believe those stories more and more each day.

"Welcome, I am King Darran, these are my advisers. Lord Thomas Nipoleon, and Lady Lotus Lightfoot." spoke the King, "I understand that you are the leader of the group of adventurous who where found in my hunting ground. From what my advisers tell me, you had on you many strange and unusual devices. It is my understanding that you are not of this place, but of a place far way, is this not so?"

"Yes, my friends and I are not from around here," said Viper. The two would go on to talk about other dimensions and other places. From what little Viper understood of other dimensions, it would see that the King knew for more. From time to time his adviser would whisper into the kinds ear, and tell him what questions he might want to ask, and weather or not Viper was telling the truth. After about an hour or so, King Darran gave Viper an offer. He asked Viper if his team would be willing to help the King with a problem.

"About two days ago the future Queen was kidnaped as she traveled from her father's kingdom in the south to here," the King stated. "Along the way the couch that was bringer her was attacked. All of the guards where killed, and the Queen was no place to be found. It is believed that evil Lord McGuinnes, a great and powerful wizard is the one responsible. He is very strong, and wants very much to topple my kingdom. He can not make a frontal attack, because he knows that my neighboring kingdoms would come to my aid. But if he could make it look as if I was the one who started the attack, then the other kingdoms would not come and aid me, but my in turn aid my enemy. Because of the resent war, no one wants to enter battle with anyone else before they are fully recovered. Lord McGuinnes was not as devastated as the rest of us, because he was not directly involved in the war. I say this because he never officially joined the fight against the orc army, but it is my belief that he was the main strength behind the orc tribes joining. We might have lost it all if it hadn't been for a disagreement with the orcish leaders which caused them to split apart again. It is also my belief that the good Lord is the man responsible for my father's assassination. My father was a great leader, and an even better warrior. From the moment the fighting began he was at the front lines fighting side by side with his man, as well as with the captain of the guard, my friend and protector, Dravin." At this point the King waves his hand to the corner of the room, and from the shadows the man in the warn armor Viper had seen before steps out from the shadows into full view.

The King continued, "My father, hearing rumors that I was to be assassinated, sent Dravin to protect me. Dravin did not want to leave my fathers side, but knew that he must follow his orders. Dravin was able to prevent my assassination, but what we did not know was the this attempt on my life was a distraction, and that the real target was the King, my father. He was stabbed in the back, as he fought. The man responsible was caught, but it was discovered that his mind had been effected by some kind of magic that forced him to betray his King. I know of only one man who could have created such a spell, and used it, but with my kingdom so weak, I am unable to bring him to justice. I ask of you, now that you have heard my tale, will you help me retrieve my queen, so that our kingdoms will become strong and be able to rid this land of his evil. I have posted a reward of 1,000,000 pieces of gold for her safe return. I know that you, a man of true honor would not need such an incentive to help me."

Viper gladly excepted the offer to help, but said that he would have to ask the rest of his men if they wanted to join. The king agreed to let him speak to his men, and weather they agreed to go or no, he would release them. Viper made one more inquiry before he left. He asked about his wounded friend, and how he was doing. The King said that his needs had been taken care of. And that he was resting, and once he had woken, he would join the rest of your group.

In a small room, Agthork tosses and turns in a short wooden bed, his head filled with images he does not understand. In the shadows, a small silver shimmer can faintly be seen from time to time.

Agthork's mind becomes filled with the images for a medieval setting. He is dressed like a king, or maybe a prince. He stands at the edge of a large stone window in a castle. He looks out from a high tower, he can see over the great stone wall that protects the castle. Past that wall is a beautiful landscape. The trees are bright and colorful, their leaves changing color with the coming of fall. Wild flowers grow in the fields, their sweet fragrance filling the air. As he watches the sky begins to darken. This darkness seems to cover everything, turning it dark and destroyed. The trees split and topple, the flowers wither and die. Pain fills his heart, and sadness with in his soul. Hate, fear and sorrow. A battle is ragging just over the great wall, just at the edge of the horizon. Men dressed in heavy armor, armed with sword, spears and other hand weapons charge into the mass of strange ugly creatures that advance towards them. One man stands out from the rest, his armor is brighter, and more elaborate. All the men seem to protect this one man, giving their own life so he make keep fighting. He leads the men through the monsters, slaying them as he goes. He glances behind himself, and sees Agthork watching. He give him a smile of pride toward him, and nods at him as he returns to the task at hand. The feeling of warmth, and respect for this man fill Agthork. He feels the devotion this man has, how he seems to be fighting for him, the man's face is that of Agthork's father.

As the man turns to look at Agthork once more, the happiness and joy that was once in his face is not replaced with fear and terror. The man falls forward, blood pouring from his back. Standing just behind him is a man dressed in dark robs. The robs seem to spread over the battle, and across the sky, as if the robs themselves where alive with the darkness that was destroying the world around. As the hood falls back you can see the face of a man, a face that burns with in you, as his eyes tare at his heart. The look of evil flows over the man's face as her pulls the dagger from your father's back. His face shows only that of evil. The shadows seem to cover this man. The move in and out of him as if he was a part of it. Hatred builds with in, death, and destruction is all that this man is capable of.

The world seems to shift and change, no longer watching the battle from the tower, but now Agthork finds himself at the edge of a wide river. It is now dawn, and the sun is rising over the land. People are moving about, rebuilding, cleaning up from the destruction. Standing along side Agthork is a man, not unlike the image of his father, but this man is younger, and has a large scar crossing over his face. This man seems very proud of Agthork, and he shows great respect for him as well. Agthork turns away from the man, and now find himself standing in a large forest. As he walks forward into the trees, they seem to part, and form a wide path for him to follow. Look across the path stands a very beautiful young woman. When she sees him, she begins to run toward him. She is dressed in a long flowing dress, her long dark hair moves with the wind as she runs. Agthork starts to run toward her, arms stretched out, waiting for her embrace. Love. This is the woman of his dreams, the desires of his heart.

As the two start to get closer to each other, the sky becomes dark once again. The trees become blacken, and begin to fall, as split and die. Now the woman no longer looks as if she runs to the man she loved, but now she looks as if she runs with fear. Agthork stumbles and falls as the ground below him begins to shake and crack. Five giant pillars come shoot up out of the ground, surrounding the woman. Agthork screams a name, her name, Gabriella, but his voice seems to stutter, and stop as if the words refuse to leave his mouth. The five pillars bend, but do not break, as they fold over her, the ground beneath her feet rising, lifting her into the sky. Agthork's body becomes limp, his body refuses to move, no mater how hard he tried. As she rises into the air, she is really being grasped by a giant hand. As she goes higher, a dark shape forms behind her, the figure of a giant man. It is the same dark figure that killed his father. Agthork's hated of this man fills his body and allows him to stand. Not only did he kill his father, now he has taken the woman he loves away from him.

Agthork screams. His screams brought forth by pain, pain of losing his love. The world in which he stands shatters, like glass from a broken mirror. Agthork wakes, in an unfamiliar bed. Sweat pours down his face, and over his body. The images of the girl still swimming in his mind. The pain of her lose, and the desire to find her are all the fill his thoughts. As he looked around the room, he saw a wooden table, a small wash bowl and pitcher. The only window to the room is blocked by wooden shutters. The room itself seems to be made of stone, and wood. He gets out of bed, and washes his face in the brown water from the wash bowl. He then went and knocked on the door, calling for anyone who was there. A guard answered his calls, saying that someone would be there soon.

Viper had just finished explaining to the team what had happened to him, when Agthork was brought down to them. Before Viper could explain to him what was going on, Agthork said that they had to get out and find the princess, Gabriella. The group agreed to do what they could to get her back.

The King was willing to give them back their equipment, as well as give them some clothing so that they could blend into the area better. The plan was to sneak the group out on a cart with several other guards, and once they left the protective walls of the castle, the guards would leave, and the group would continue on toward the evil Lord's castle. Gomer volunteered to say behind, and try to work on the portal device. Eric thought that he should leave the lightning pack behind because it would stick out too much. The rest of the group did what they could to hide the weapons they had. The group was given swords and armor to add to their disguise. The way out of town was much like the way they had gone in, but this time they where not on a prison cart, but in a covered wagon. At the edge of the village, when they where just about out of sight of the castle walls, they met up with a second wagon, where they exchanged places, and the team continued onward in search of Lady Gabriella.

The team traveled for several days without seeing anything. The closer they got to the castle of Lord McGuinnes, the more the land seemed to be in pain, and devastated. Agthork could feel this the most because of his special abilities to connect to plants. The group had been following a river that Dravin had told them would lead them straight to Lord McGuinnes' castle. At this point in their travels the land was burt and chard, no plants or even animals lived here at all. Because the land was so flat and empty, the group could see much farther then they normally might have. Its because of this they were able to spot the large oak tree on the other side of the river. As they got closer, they could see that this tree seemed to have been spared the destruction of the rest of its brothers. In about a ten foot area around the tree, it looked as if nothing had happened to the area. The grass was green and lush, wild flowers grew in a circle around the tree. The tree itself was growing tall and strong, its leaves green with life. The group stopped and just stared at it. Agthork tried to manipulate the tree and grass, but for some reason he was unable to effect it. As they looked at it, Glory became impatient, not understanding why they where so interested in it. To her it was just a tree, just some plants, nothing important to the task at hand.

As the group began to leave, Eric thought he saw someone peeking around the tree. He stopped the group and told them what he saw. What he thought he saw was a child or a short man, maybe three or four feet tall. Eric jumped over the river, along with Hacker and they took a look around. Neither of them found the man. But that is when the tricks started. Hacker had stopped to admire the tree, and the flowers, but when he started moving again, someone had tied his boot laces together, and he fell flat on his face. Eric could swear he heard laughing, but couldn't ignore out from where. When he want to help Hacker, is when he saw the man again, or actually didn't see him, because as soon as he went and looked strait at him, was when he vanished. The rest of the group watched this, and still could not see the man. Hacker and Eric had an idea. And the two of them put on a little show for their vanishing friend. They did simple trick, things Hacker had seen Charley Chaplain do, the little mad couldn't stop laughing, and laughed himself into existence.

The little man introduced himself as Adoy. He was just over three feet tall, he had green skin, large ears that shot out from his balding head. He said that he found these two very funny, and invited them in for tea. The two looked at each other, and then the little man. He smiled and laughed again, waving his hand about the base of the tree. A small three foot door appeared, and the little man went inside. Eric bent down, and looked at the door, then Hacker, and then the door again. As Eric was getting himself ready to try and squeeze through the door, is when he found the door expand, and let him in with no effort at all. Hacker quickly followed. Inside was bigger then the outside. This made Hacker thing of his favorite sci-fi show. The three of them sat around a small wooden table, where Adoy served them tea, and biscuits. Eric said he was very grateful but that they really didn't have time, because they where on a great quest. Adoy, said he knew that already, and that he had something special for them that would help them find the princes. He pulled out a large trunk and started to sift through its contents. He was throwing odds and ends from this trunk as if it had no bottom at all. After they where about knee deep in junk, is when he emerged from the trunk holding a blue velvet cloth. Inside the cloth was a clear orb, this orb was about the size of a golf ball. The orb was attached to a golden chain. Adoy, said that this would help them locate the girl. All they would need to di is hold it in the palm of their hand, and think of the girl. As he said this he held the orb in his open hands, and it began to glow. An arrow appeared inside the orb, it pointed in the direction the group was headed.

Eric and Hacker emerged from the tree only a few seconds after they entered, or that is how it seemed to the others. Eric told them about the locator he had been given. The group continued on in the direction that the orb pointed. That night the group set up a cold camp in the broken remains of an old stone building. All that remained was three of the four walls, and they where only about three to four feet high. The river they had been following had changed from a steady flow, to a smelly stagnate swamp. They set up watch, each of them would take a three hour watch. Glory, who didn't need to sleep, was on watch the entire time. During the point where Glory was the only one on watch is when she saw a fire of in the distance. From what she could see, there where three large figures, a little bigger then a normal man, and two of them where tossing around something, but she couldn't make it out. She woke up Hacker, and told him that she was going to go take a look at the other camp. As Glory left, Hacker went and woke up Agthork, and told him that Glory was going to investigate this other camp. Agthork went and woke up Viper and Eric. He then began to get ready for a fight. Eric seeing that Agthork was getting his armor ready, took no time, and left camp looking for the fight. Glory was almost on top of them, when they spotted Eric moving up on them. Before they could do anything other then pick up their weapons, Glory had already removed the head of one of them with her sword. She stood there, and told them to surrender. They barked back something at her in some language she didn't understand, and attacked. Eric ran up, and started attacking one of them, as the other attacked Glory. Viper and Agthork arrived, and each took their swings at the two, until both of them where dead. Hacker had decided that someone needed to stay behind and protect the camp.

Glory and the others started going through the orc camp when they found something trying to hide under a pile of rubble. It was a four foot tall green humanoid. He had a very large noise, and small pointed teeth. He hissed that them when they came near it. When he got a look at the orcs, was when he seemed to perk up. He spoke in very broken English. He said his name was Htye, and began to thank them for saving his life. He was so grateful that they had come when they did. He said he would do anything he could to repay them. They asked him if he knew anything about Lord McGuinnes' castle. He told them he knew everything about it. He was small, and most over looked him, and would forget about him, so it was simple for him to explore and find every passageway. He could show them how to get inside, without being seen.

Once the castle was in sight, the knew they this was not going to be as easy as they had hoped. The face of the castle looked like a giant skull. On the head of this skull was a giant crown that formed three towers at the corners, and one tower in the center that joined them all through some bridges. The closer they got to the castle the more the orb seemed to point upwards, rather then just forwards. It was decided that she must be in one of the four towers, and most likely she was in the center one. Htye lead them to the back of the castle, he said just on the other side of the great stone wall was a secret passage that would lead them inside the castle. All they needed to do was get over the wall. Htye said he would wait for them here, because that would be best for him. The group didn't even seem to care as they got over the wall. They found the passage-way just where Htye had said it would be. Once they opened the door, they realized why no one but Htye had found it. The passageway was about five feet high, but only about two feet wide. The group would have to go one at a time, and then they would have to go in side ways. If anyone attacked them while inside, they would be screwed.

Glory lead the way, because she could see while within the darkness. There was no light inside at all, the group had to rely on Glory to lead them through. The tunnel itself was damp, slimy, and had a very foul smell to it. The ground was more spongy the solid. Because of this the group was happy it could not see. At the end of the tunnel was a second secret door. This door led into a large intersection. The group could see a set of large wooden doors, and two sets of steps leading up on either side. There were several suits of armor, and large tapestries on the walls. Eric looked that the orb for some help in what direction they should head. It was pointing strait up. Eric took another look around, and noticed that at the point at which they came out of was a large pillar sunk into the wall. Looking about he found two more such pillars. From what he could guess these where the bases of the three other towers. Eric began to search around the point at which they came out, and found a second passage way. This one was a latter leading strait up.

As the group climbed the latter, it seemed as if it would go on forever. About every few feet or so, would be a window. The windows would not be on the same side each time, but every foot the window would be on the wall next to it. If anyone would happen to look up at the town it would be very easy to see them. Lucky for them is was late at night, and there where very few guards.

At the top of this tower, they found themselves at a large stone archway, that was attached to a rope bridge. The bridge led across to the center tower. The bridge connected to about twenty or thirty feet below the top of the center tower. Looking across all the team could see was a large open area, and the two other bridges that connected to this tower. The team went one at a time, and moved across it as fast as they could, hopping that no one bellow would spot them.

Inside the second tower was two sets of latters leading up toward a wooded ceiling above them. At the ends of each of the latters was about a man sized trap door. Glory went first up one side, as Viper went up the second. Eric followed Viper, with Agthork right behind him. Hacker was sticking close to Glory as they went up. When they reach the top, Glory slowly lifted the trap door, just a crack. She looked around a bit, but it was very difficult to get a good look at anything. She could see a small table, and chair, but not much else. Viper came up, but couldn't even see the table and chair because he had such a bad angle. But he could see something large out of the corner of his eye, but couldn't make it out. Glory went to open the door, and it was locked. Using her great strength, and a loud crash, she was able to force it open.

As she got out, on the floor, she could see what looked like a large wingless red dragon just waking in the corner of the room. She turned to tell the others, but before she had a chance, a small ax came smashing into her from behind. Viper was able to open his door with no problem, and quickly saw what had thrown the ax at Glory. Standing before him was a huge seven foot tall troll. Its huge hairy fists gripping a large ax. Viper quickly rolled out from under the door, and managed to miss being hit by the ax. Viper told Glory to take care of the dragon, and the rest would deal with the troll. The troll, took several swings at Viper, keeping him from advancing, or taking any other actions. Eric, using his antigravity belt, quickly slipped into the room. Staying high at the ceiling, he was able to take pot shots at the dragon, and the troll. Hacker entered, and quickly teleported to a second latter that was in the corner of the room. He climbed up it and disappeared in the upper level.

Glory had take out her sword, and was trying to jam it into the skull of this dragon. The dragon shot several fire balls into Glory, as well as at Eric, who was shooting it. Viper moved away from the troll so it could not use its ax on him. The troll was trying to hack at Agthork as he came out of the trap door, but Agthork was too fast for him. The troll reached down and simply closed and locked the trap door. Viper was taking pot shots at the troll's hands, trying to get him to drop the ax, but he was unable to. The troll became so angry with Viper, he ran over to him, lifting his great ax, and coming down on vipers left arm, cutting it clean off. Viper fell over with the pain, and began to bleed on the floor.

In the upper level, Hacker had managed to find the princess. She was being held in a locked room just above the fighting. Hacker told the woman who sent them, and that he was going to get her out. He used his supernatural strength to rip the door from the wall, and free her.

The troll had managed to pick up Viper and use him as a shield. He knew that he wasn't going to get out of this alive, now that Glory had killed the dragon. Glory had unlocked the other trap door, and let Agthork get it. The troll moved to a window not far from himself, and began to yell something out of it. He then moved to the trap door. They knew that he would be unable to climb the latter, and hold on to Viper, but so did he. The troll, holding Viper in one, jumped down threw the opening. Viper's body was jammed hard into the tight opening. Eric quickly grabbed Viper's good arm, and kept him from falling. The troll tried to grab onto the latter as he fell, but only managed to slow himself a little.

Agthork said that in most RPGs he knew about, dragon's teeth, claws, and blood was worth a lot of money to a wiszard, so the group gathered up as much as they felt they would need. Glory looked out the window and could see a group of armed guards working their was up the far towers and then to the rope bridge. Glory took a grenade and threw it at the bridge, causing it to explode, and collapse. Agthork took Viper's severed arm, and duct tapped it to Viper, so that they would not lose it. The group began to think over options, and knew they couldn't fight their way out, so they had to run. Hacker, using his teleportation skill, took the princess, and teleported a good distance away. The rest help onto Glory as she flew the out of the tower, and out over the castle. Several arrows where fired at them, but they did little good to stop them.

The group moved non-stop to return the princess back to her husband to be. When the group got within sight of the kingdom, they could see large billowing streaks of smoke coming from the village, and castle. When they arrived, they could see that the castle its self had collapsed, and the village was burring is some spots. They found the king, and he told them that a great silver dragon had come attacking the village. He didn't know why, but the dragon had knocked over part of the castle, but then began to search with in it as if looking for something special. The king told them that Gomer, as well as several other people had gone missing. Among those was the wizard, Louts Lightfoot, and the healer. The group was shocked, not knowing what to do, or where to go next. All they knew was that they had to help Viper, and recover Gomer if they where ever to return home.