SoB_Chapter IV: 48 The Old Road

waterfall by metalratrox

Cover image by Metalratrox

Previously        ¦       The Beginning of the Story





The roar of the Foamfire River, who impetuously falls from a height of more than 300 feet over the valley, is impetuous and amplified by the echoes that propagate inside the spiraling pass that climbs inside the mountain itself. As we proceed in the dark passage, dug centuries before, it is as though we are surrounded by a crowd of howling creatures that with their screams completely dominate our sounds, our voices. We do not even hear the drums of our pursuers anymore and I thank Zirchev and Petra and Halav for the strength they gave us in the last two days. We crossed running the entire valley of the raging Foamfire River. We indulged in only occasional and brief stops, the time to eat something and have Adrik and Glimreen rest. I watch my companions as we climb along the winding road that is leading us from the valley bottom to the top of the waterfall where, according to the ancient map, should begin the last part of the journey that will lead us to the Lost Valley and the city of Hutaaka. The most worn out are surely the two half-humans. It was doubly tiring for them to sustain our pace and, were it not for their nature and resistance to physical effort, they could never had done it. For this last climb we have the luxury of sitting on the levitating disk generated by specultum, gift of Rheddrian. Their faces still bear the signs of fatigue and tension, though they are no more strained in the effort. Titus and Thoragon, the mysterious dragon-like being, proceed at the head of the group, as usual. I close the ranks, Dan is almost always with me. Occasionally I see him as he looks back, preoccupied by the idea that there are gnolls pursuers behind. Should they attack here it would be the end. The last time we saw them, before entering the passage dug into the mountainside, they were no more than two hundred yards away. Their ranks had swelled by the hour. They were few the day before, after we had left the sacred ground of the cemetery where we had stumbled by chance during the night. “Probably hunters.” Titus said. In fact they always kept at a safe distance from any form of contact. Gradually, however, they increased in number and now our pursuers were at least two hundred and among them we also saw some ogres.

Gnoll Scout by BenWootten

Gnoll Scout by BenWootten

“Dan?” Titus asked, turning to my traladaran companion. The group had stopped after a long climb, short of breath. The darkness of the passage was not complete, and even our magical light sources were now no longer necessary. A strong glow, from a few dozens of meters in front of us, indicated that the exit was no longer so far away. The roar of the river was gradually growing dim.

“It doesn’t look like they’re following us. I heard their war drums pounding behind us, as long as I could, but then nothing. It almost seems that their purpose was not so much to kill us but to push us up there.”

“Good for us, right?” Stephan intervened. “If they do not intend to pursue us, I mean.” He hurried to the conclusion after all my companions had looked him severely.

“I would be not so sure.” Titus urged. “If three hundred Gnoll warriors do not follow us up there, I think there are only two reasons. Either this is a land forbidden to them, but I have not seen any signs, sacred or not, along the climb to support this hypothesis .. ”

“Or they fear what lies ahead!” Adrik continued, giving voice to our darker thoughts.

“Look” this time it was Glimreen,  the gnome. A few meters ahead of us, his figure was lit by the first rays of sunlight that penetrated inside the passage. When I reached him, along with my companions, I saw what he wanted to tell us, and our fears began immediately. The bodies of three Gnolls, now only desiccated skeletons, lay a few meters from us. They were halfway between the mouth of the tunnel and a low stone structure, perhaps the remains of an ancient watchtower, at the center of a large stone bridge that covered the entire 80 feet of the Foamfire width. The river passed violently under the ancient stone structure and fell into the valley below. The roar, from the bottom of the valley, completely covered the war drums of the gnolls who could now be heard anew. We began to advance along the bridge in a single line. I felt an enormous joy, out of the dark and illuminated by the warm sun. The air was cool and pleasant. Below us, the Foamfire valley stretched to the south. Its blue and silver reflexes made it seem like a long aquatic animal, alive. The gnolls camped at the foot of the waterfall. Their numbers were overwhelming. We never, ever would have thought to fight them in an open clash. Whether they saw us or not, the roar produced by their drums had been increasing.

Picture by Slawomir Maniak

Picture by Slawomir Maniak

“Look there.” Titus was leaning on one of the gnoll skeletons. “He had his ribs fractured in several places. Even the femur and the hip shows severe fractures. Something heavy fell upon this poor bastard. A mallet, a warhammer perhaps. I bet the other two have similar fractures “.

“Listen, we can not hope that our followers do not follow us forever. We have to continue taking advantage of the situation and put more distance between us and them. ” This time it was Thoragon with his hard, deep voice. “I agree.” Adrik replied and then gradually all of us. “We just have to open the brass port on the side of the tower and hoping that whatever killed the Gnoll is not in there.”

“There seem to be only harmless silver statues of the usual jackal-headed individuals” Glimreen said, opening the metal door at the center of the square base of the tower, and peering inside, under the astonished gaze of the companions .

Only statues. The shrill voice of the little guy echoed reassuringly in my mind but my instinct and all my senses were screaming. Danger. Death.

To be continued.


Cast of Characters




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