“I think it’s about time you got us out of here,” Wiliken said to Dusk and Grace. While Grace had done a great deal of healing since she arrived, neither of their allies had even attempted to get them out of Valgaman’s Menagerie.
Douglas stepped between the githzerai and his two friends. “If Jenkins could get them in, then surely he can get us out.”
“And how can you be so sure that we’ll survive long enough to make it out?” Wiliken asked. “Valgaman doesn’t seem to have any trouble throwing his goons at us. How long before they hit us harder than Grace can heal?”
“I have faith in my friends,” Douglas said. “Which is more than I can say for you.”
Wiliken stormed off. As he did, his allies split off into groups in order to figure out a way to disable the force field that held them in. It was a fool’s errand, and yet some thought they could conjure a password from the lingering spirits of the murdered nobles upstairs, and even Jurgen thought he might be able to consult the extraplanar sages. Some short moments later, they were all back in the large room where Morgan had felled the demon minotaur and none of them had any answers.
“Now that we have exhausted all of our options,” Jurgen said. “Perhaps we need to entertain something a little more… gruesome. There were both ghosts and beasts who said they could help us get out of here if we just let them feed on one of the children.”
“No!” shouted Douglas and Wiliken in unison.
“I’ll fight every last minion of Valgaman before I will allow these children to come to harm,” Wiliken said.
“And they’ll all die of starvation because you weren’t willing to sacrifice one,” Jurgen retorted.
“They can feast on roasted minotaur and salted boar,” said Jean-Baptiste.
“Wait,” Douglas said. “I think Jurgen is right. If we’re going to get out of here, we are going to need to use the children.”
There was a murmur of confusion and disagreement.
“Think about it,” Douglas said. “If their youth and perfection is enough to power some terrible dark magic, it is also the sort of vitality from which all healing and regenerative magic originates. These children can break through the force field, and I think I know how.”
Douglas began to sing a song. Wiliken recognized it but could not remember its name. The song had been old when Wiliken was young. Though the words had been forgotten by most long ago, the children began to join Douglas in singing. Their song was jubilant and uplifting. Perhaps the song merely invoked a feeling of happiness in the githzerai, or perhaps there was a power at work in this room. Wiliken felt his worries fall from his shoulders to be replaced by hope.
“The wards are crumbling,” rejoiced the half-elf Dusk. Jenkins must have scryed their success, because moments later a teleportation circle appeared. Douglas shifted from leading the song to helping the children escape to the Felreeve.
The song continued until the other circle formed on the ground, the giant teleportation circle of Iuzian design.
Wiliken immediately switched to battle mode. He barked commands at the others, some to shepherd the children toward Jenkins’ teleportation circle and others to put themselves between the oncoming invaders and the portal to the Felreeve. Their next set of enemies materialized, revealing a giant skeleton, far larger than the minotaur they’d just battled, and radiating cold, accompanied by several small wolves that waved in and out of existence like clouds of smoke. This crew would be even more deadly than the previous, and yet Wiliken found his attention elsewhere.
A ruckus had arisen in the next room. The animals had become agitated, and loud angry voices accompanied them. One the githzerai made out as saying, “They’re in there. Get them.”
Wiliken rushed to the door just as Morgan was hit by a huge throwing axe and pulled back toward the skeleton by some invisible ghostly chain. The githzerai was tempted to turn back, but were he to do so the battle for their lives might quickly turn into an inescapable ambush. The door to the next room was a simple wooden door. Wiliken knew he could lock it, but he also knew it would take more than just one githzerai with a bow to defend the doorway from the axes and swords that could easily tear it down. They needed more allies if they were to save these children and escape this place in one piece. An idea came to Wiliken.
He stepped through the door and closed it behind him.
On the other side, he saw several heavily armed warriors who had just disembarked from the elevator. Their teleportation circles had likely landed them in the sandpit. As they rushed toward him, Wiliken made two quick moves that may have saved his life – he tossed the ring of keys that they’d found in the other room to the tentacled octo-bear, and shot an arrow at the lock on the cage of the dragon creature. The two beasts emerged from their cells and immediately rushed toward the soldiers, allowing Wiliken to slip back into the room where the others were embattled.
Douglas was funneling the last of the children through the portal when Wiliken shouted, “I’ve bought us a few moments, but we need to make this quick.”
The githzerai first took aim on the ghost wolves which had stepped forward and engaged his friends. Some arrows passed right through them and others struck, but his attack was meant more as a distraction to allow his allies to get away. One by one they sneak away, Jurgen, then Morgan, then Grace, the healer who had done a great deal of damage to their most dangerous foe. As soon as Wiliken dispatched the ghost wolves, he strafed while firing and ended up next to Dusk.
“Get to the portal!” Wiliken shouted.
“Not while the skeleton still stands,” Dusk shouted. “He would just pull one of us back.”
Wiliken hadn’t thought of that. For the many to escape, one of them would likely have to be left behind as fodder for the icy skeletal warrior.
“I have to end this,” Dusk said. His eyes rolled inside out as he pushed the limit of the magic he could control. Wiliken stepped forward to draw the attention of their shared foe and keep him from interrupting any incantations or conjuring that might happen next. Wordlessly, Dusk summoned a blinding radiant blast. If Wiliken didn’t know better, he’d have thought the half-elf had siphoned the flaming forces of their previous enemies, but this wasn’t the power of fire the githzerai was witnessing; it was the power of pure light.
Only when the skeleton had disassembled and fallen to the ground would Dusk exit. Wiliken followed closely behind, but was stopped by Douglas.
“We have a few moments before the door is broken down,” Douglas said, calmly. “What say you and I sort things out.”
Exasperated, Wiliken said, “You would leave me to die? After all I have contributed to the safety of you, your allies, and those innocent children?”
“It is not my first choice,” Douglas said. “For all I know, you did what you did to save your skin. While we were all confined together, you denied your blood and worked with us to escape. But when we get out of here, you could just as easily slit our throats in our sleep and escape, running back to assist the son who would have these children murdered for his schemes. What proof do I have that this will not happen?”
“You’ll have no proof from me that hasn’t already been given,” Wiliken answered. “Any further proof comes when you release me from this place. But if you’re going to leave me to die, at least strike the blow yourself. Only a coward leaves his sheep to the wolves.”
Douglas stared at Wiliken for a moment and withdrew a dagger from his belt. Wiliken looked from Douglas’ eyes to the dagger and back again. He stood up straight and accepted his fate, but Douglas sheathed his dagger, and as the door fell down and enemies and beasts alike flooded the room, Douglas pulled the githzerai through the portal to safety.
Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 14.