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Alora's Tale


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Chapter 1 - Time of Troubles


"Another night on the town, Miss Shortwick?" asked Talleckin. "You'll regret it tomorrow!"


"I told you Tally, call me Alora!" the young halfling replied, winking at the elderly gnome who had stuck his head round the door to his room as she stealthily made her way in from the street. Well, not so stealthily as it turned out. Either that or the old gnome had exceptional hearing.


"Oh, of course miss Sh... I mean Alora. Anyway, I'd better let you get to your room. I'm sure you're pretty worn out after all that partying."


"Uh yes, something like that. 'Night Tally."


"'Night Miss Shortwick."


Alora chuckled as she walked through the door and shut it behind her. As she reached over her head to lock the door (why must these places always be designed for humans?), she couldn't help but wonder about Tally. The old gnome had been her neighbor for the past couple of months now, but she barely knew anything about him. Then again, he barely knew anything about her either - especially not the true nature of her "nights on the town". For a moment she thought about telling him what it was she got up to at night, but quickly dismissed the idea. She'd learnt that lesson the hard way back in the town of Asbrawn...


Still, Tally was probably her closest friend here in the Elfsong. There was only one other permanent resident in the building, and neither Alora nor Tally knew his name or even what he looked like, as he always wore a long, hooded robe that kept his features extremely well hidden. Alora had often considered tailing him when he went on one of his frequent late night strolls, and she probably would one of these days. She doubted he was a fellow thief (they had a way of being able to spot one another), but there was definitely something suspicious about him, though she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.


Alora kicked off her boots, peeled off her leather armor and other clothing, and quickly snuggled underneath covers of her bed. The feelings of comfort and warmth drew her thoughts away from the Elfsong and its residents to another inn, this one in the distant city of Iriaebor. The Dreaming Dragon had been her home for over a decade, and every time she thought of it, it conjured up many happy memories. Of course the Dragon probably looked somewhat different after the recent Zhentish occupation of the city, but the last letter Alora received from her parents revealed they had returned to running the place soon after the Zhents had been driven off.


As Alora drifted off to sleep, the face of her mother, Estel, lingered in her thoughts. A small smile appeared on the halfling thief's semi-conscious face, and stayed there as she began to dream...




"Estel, look out!" came an alarmed cry.


The young halfling priestess ducked as an hobgoblin's axe narrowly avoided slicing her head off. She quickly spun round, mace fully extended, yelling out a quick thanks to her friend Lydia - a young human fighter from Berdusk - for the warning. The mace (a gift from her church which was somewhat ironically was known as "Peacemaker") smashed into one of the hobgoblin's kneecaps, and it roared in pain, backing off several paces. The creature's chest suddenly exploded in a shower of gore as a magical arrow ripped through its ribcage.


Estel glanced to her right, and spotted her half-elf companion Narim notching another arrow. He saw her looking his way, and give her a quick nod before sending another enchanted arrow off into the fray. Estel was about to look away when she spotted a goblin sneaking up behind the ranger. She prepared to yell out a warning, but there was no need - in one fluid motion, Narim slid his left hand from his bow to his sheathed dagger, drew it, and thrust it behind him. The confused goblin stared down at the hole in his stomach, then promptly fell face down, dead.


"Ahem!" came a irritated sounding voice from the opposite direction.


Estel spun around and spotted the human wizard Leiton, backing away as a trio of goblins advanced towards him. Not spotting any obstacles between herself and her companion she started to run towards his position, but once again there was no need. With a blaze of light, a magical wall appeared between Leiton and his foes. It was still for just a moment, then moved towards the goblins at such speed they barely had time to figure out what was going on. As the wall collided with the three creatures, they were flung backwards, and there was a sickening crack as their fragile bodies collided with the wall on the opposite side of the room.


Estel was about to congratulate Leiton on his impressive new spell, but then she spotted the look of utter confusion on his face.


"It's never done that before..." he muttered.


Estel was about to inquire as to what had just happened when she heard a savage roar from behind her. Yet again she spun around, this time spotting a huge, terrifying creature racing towards her from the other side of the room. A bugbear! She'd heard of such fell beasts, but had never before encountered one. Quickly, she called upon her god Eldath to strike her foe with a holy smite spell. There was a bright flash of light, but nothing else happened.


Not allowing herself to be distracted by either the failure of the spell or the rapidly approaching foe, Estel tried instead to sheathe her opponent in the fire of a flame strike spell. This time the spell had an effect, though certainly not the expected one; instead of a single column of flame, an enormous field of fire fell from the ceiling, burning everything within - including the bugbear, a couple of hobgoblins and several goblins.


Luckily none of her companions were hit, though the fifth member of the group, a young human bard called Mathias, jumped back several feet in surprise as the flames suddenly appeared, almost dropping his rapier in the process.


"Not so close next time!" he scolded Estel as the magical fire vanished, not waiting for a reply before running off to attack a nearby hobgoblin.


Estel wisely decided that 'next time' could wait until she figured out what was going on with her spells. Had Eldath abandoned her? As far as she knew, she had done nothing to offend her god - and even if she had, surely her spells would have stopped working altogether rather than simply malfunction. So what was going on?


She was interrupted from her thoughts as the entire room began to shake, huge cracks rapidly forming in the floor, walls and ceiling. Estel tried to yell out to the others, but couldn't even hear herself over the din. There was a loud groaning noise, and then rubble started to fall from the ceiling. All five of the companions somehow managed to avoid the falling debris, but many of the remaining goblinoids were crushed. Estel winced as a huge boulder fell on top of a pair of nearby goblins, then had to quickly dodge a second enormous rock as it fell towards her position.


Eventually the room started to halts its violent motions, and then came to a halt altogether - though dust and small pebbles continued to fall from the numerous cracks that had been formed in the ceiling and upper walls.


"Earthquake!" Narim yelled.


"It wasn't supposed to be!" called out a disgruntled =Leiton.


"What?" Lydia asked, skillfully edging around the rubble towards Leiton and Estel.


"I was trying to summon an earth elemental, but the spell somehow misfired and started all this" Leiton replied, surveying the ruined room. Once he'd finished, he shook his head in disbelief.


"What in the nine hells is going on?" asked Mathias, approaching the rest of the group. As the bard drew nearer, Estel noticed he had visible singe marks on one side of his armour from her flame strike spell.




The five friends emerged from the underground temple some time later. A shrill whistle sounded nearby, and Narim placed his hand to his mouth, letting off a whistle of his own. The group spotted a female figure appear from behind a distant pile of rubble, while Estel distinctly recalled had been a wall the last time she'd been here. Leiton's malfunctioning spell must have affected an even larger area than they'd thought.


As the figure swiftly drew nearer, Estel recognized her friend Shiene - a beautiful half-elven thief, who had remained on the surface as a look out. Shiene swiftly caught up with the companions, and as soon as she was near enough, embraced Narim a tight hug. When the pair disengaged themselves a moment later, Shine gave Narim a quick kiss on the lips. Estel smiled sadly, wishing her own husband, Jolle, were here to do the same for her - but of course he was at home in Iriaebor, looking after their children, Alora and Erone.


"Anything to report up here?" Narim asked her.


"Never mind me! What in Mielliki's name did you people wake up down there?" asked Shiene, brushing off dust from her tunic. "A dragon?"


"Actually," answered Lydia "if you're referring to the earthquake, it was our good friend Leiton who was responsible."


"I didn't realize you'd acquired any new spells, Leit." Shiene said, looking at the mage quizically.


"Oddly enough, he hasn't." replied Mathias before Leiton had time to reply. "He wasn't the only one who screwed up a spell either."


"I didn't screw anything up," Estel quickly interjected, glaring at the bard. "besides which clerics can't 'screw up' their spells - that's purely the domain of bumbling wizards."


"Hey!" shrieked Leiton. "I'll have you know that's the first time I..."


"Enough!" scolded a male voice from behind them. The six companions turned to see a middle-aged gnome standing on a hillock, elbow resting on a walking stick.


"We have to find out..." Mathias began.


"What's going on with your spells." interrupted the gnome. "Of course. It's not just your magic that's going haywire though. Observe." He pointed his stick at a rock several feet away, and it exploded into several dozen pieces.


"But your stick's supposed to..." started Leiton.


"Levitate things. Yes I know. Clearly something has greatly disrupted the magical weave."


"The magical what?" asked Lydia. The gnomish wizard sighed.


"It's what make spells work." Estel whispered.


"An extremely basic explanation, but I suppose it'll do. Now, we must be off to Berdusk, for I'm sure my brother wizards will already have found an explanation and begun work on a solution. No doubt they'll need my assistance."


"But I have to.." Estel began.


"Return to your family in Iriaebor. Yes I'm sure you do. Very well, we shall come find you once we've gained some answers."


The companions said their goodbyes to Estel, and turned back to their gnomish leader, who was busy extracting a second walking stick from his backpack. Once he had it in his hand, he started to wave it in the air.


"Wait!" cried out Leiton.


"Yes, what is it?" the gnome snapped.


"Is that such a good idea?" the human wizard asked him.


"What?" said the gnome, then glanced at his walking stick, which looked so poorly constructed no normal observer would never guess he'd enchanted it with a mass teleportation spell. "Oh. How bothersome. Well, it seems we have a long walk ahead of us. Let us be off at once!"


The gnome began to walk off and the companions followed, more than one of them glancing back at Estel with a sheepish look on their face. Estel waited for a moment, then headed off in the other direction.

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