“Remind me to exercise caution before calling you old,” Jurgen said.
Wiliken had been hot, both in terms of accuracy and in terms of anger. He felt strong and he felt proud, proud enough that he shouldn’t have to lower himself to retrieving his own arrows. But the only remaining party guests were his co-worker Jurgen, the dragonborn Morgan, and a mysterious noble named Douglas, whose electric strike mowed down the enemies, and each had pulled his weight enough in battle to be exempt from arrow duty.
The man named Douglas was a curiosity to Wiliken. The githzerai had learned the measure of many men, but he was having difficulty figuring out who or what this human truly was at his core. His dress suggested that Douglas was a wealthy supporter of Valgaman the Terrible, but he was highly concerned with the caged camel, which was now surrounded by hideous beasts, and such concern was not common in Valgaman’s circle. His hair, still scruffy in places, his wild eyes, and the fact that he’d attempted to disrupt the party before Wiliken had his chance, these things suggested that the man who stood before him was some sort of adventurer or soldier of fortune. But that couldn’t be entirely true. His speech was that of one highly born. To Wiliken, Douglas was an onion – you peel away one layer and you’re left with yet another.
To stack one curiosity on another, both Douglas and Morgan had clearly made their way into Valgaman’s party only through disguise and deception. Wiliken understood from this fact that these two each had their own agenda, something they wished to carry out at this event, and until Wiliken uncovered these agendas he would have to keep a close eye on these fellow warriors.
Wiliken shifted his focus to his surroundings as he filled his quiver. Any askew floorboard or out-of-place trinket might be the key to lowering the force field. In the end it was the mysterious man Douglas who found the switch. He had knocked on the stage supporting Valgaman’s throne until he’d found a hollow spot.
“Here!” Douglas had shouted, and he pried the compartment open. Douglas wore the clothing of one who had servants to do this sort of work, and yet his hands found the grooves in the wood with expert ease and cracked open the hidden chamber like an expert thief.
Wiliken and the others gathered behind Douglas.
“Perhaps we should scout for traps before Wiliken-” Jurgen said, but before he could finish, Wiliken had flipped the switch within the hidden compartment. “And there he goes again.”
The pressure in the room spiked as a blue dome appeared above the pit. Moments later, it flickered out, and the charge from the field pulled upon their bodies, forcing them over the banister and into the pit.
Down here, Wiliken could feel the rumble as the submerged beast circled. He recognized that gargantuan creature that swam through the sand as if it were water as a dire bulette. He’d seen whole squadrons of experienced warriors fall to a single bulette in the wild. Equally dangerous were three large boars whose tusks shimmered as if aflame.
“I say we fight a straight line to the cage,” Wiliken said to Douglas. “Once there, I’ll cover you from atop the camel’s prison while you work at freeing the animal.”
Douglas nodded, and the two rushed into the fray of battle. Jurgen shouted after Wiliken, “Good work. We’ll end up killing all these beasts just to save one camel. Are all githzerai ignorant of the study of mathematics?”
The archer’s first shot struck a boar on its thickly ridged back. The beast had been goring the cage with his tusks, but when the arrow struck he turned and charged his assailants. Douglas was able to react quickly enough to dive out of the way, but the boar struck Wiliken head on, driving him back into Jurgen and knocking them both prone.
Before they could arise, a jolt of electricity surged through the two combatants, knocking them back down, followed by another and another. Wiliken wondered if Douglas had turned on them, using the same lightning that ended the golem battle on Wiliken and Jurgen. He certainly had his suspicions about any man who disguised his true self. But both Douglas and Morgan were busy dodging deadly boar tusks while trying in vain to make quick strikes against the mad creatures. The static charges were coming from a pair of reptiles, basilisks by the looks of them, though Wiliken admitted he could be wrong. They stood to either side of the pit, each taking cover behind massive pillars and only popping their heads out to discharge deadly bolts of lightning against their foes.
Wiliken found that it was no use trying to get up. The twin reptiles kept them thoroughly pinned. Instead, Wiliken drew and fired while still laying on his side. He fired at the reptile to his left between crippling jolts, nock, fire, – BZZZZT – and was able to remain in the battle just long enough to kill one of the two beasts, but before he could turn on the second a final excruciating bolt hit him and everything went black.
Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 5.
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