This is part five from a story I was writing a long, long time ago.
The material contains reference to copyrighted material owned by TSR and now Wizards of the Coast. Disclaimer, blah, blah, blah.
“We’ve been called.” Eight strange people, each with a black onyx amulet around his neck, walked silently out of a cave, looking across a vast desert. They began to walk, not sleeping, not eating, and not drinking. After a week of fast walking, they reached the edge of the desert, and the beginning of an ocean.
The one that had spoken raised his hand, and a sunken, rotted ship rose to the surface of the water. Another wave of the hand, and the rotted, twisted wood began to mend itself. The group floated into the air and boarded a hundred-year-old vessel.
“Attack!!” The call rang from the walls of the cavern. No one, including Flard Snet, knew where it came from. Steel began to ring on steel in front of Flard. The people on his side, most of them not recognizable to him, had begun to attack the hoard of monsters that lay at the far side of the cavern. Screams and roars of pain and anguish tore at Flard’s ears. Finally, he could take it no longer. He shifted his form into six icy darts, and raced towards one of the monsters.
It was a gruesome thing. Saliva dripping from long fangs, and horns bursting out of almost every part of its body. He pierced the monster’s flesh, then melted away, only to appear again where he had stood. He smiled in grim satisfaction as the monster staggered, then fell. He turned his attention to a newly cast wall of fire in the center of the cavern. When he looked back at where the body should have been, it was gone.
The monsters’ numbers were rapidly diminishing. Many were turning in fear, though there was nowhere to run. Now that the monsters were vanquished, Flard had time to look at his surroundings. He guessed that there were about twenty five heroes. At the beginning, he had guessed that there were about twice as many monsters than heroes. Now, the figures were opposite. A last scream tore from the last monster’s chest and ripped through the air. Silence followed, and the heroes were almost afraid to breathe. A sigh was let loose, and the heroes relaxed.
A cruel laugh filled the room, rebounding off of the walls. Flard Snet’s heart turned as cold as the ice he had become at the cruel laugh. Inky black clouds of mist rose from the floor and slowly coalesced into solid forms. Grinning monsters, spitting, and drooling, advanced on the weary heroes. Again and again, sword clashed with claw. Soon a monster dropped to the floor, never to rise again. Another, and yet another, followed. ‘Truly,’ Flard thought, ‘I am fighting with the mightiest of heroes.’ As he thought this, he caught a glimpse of a grinning Klvar Elf. The smile seemed to be more one of satisfaction than one of happiness.
Dark, evil blood flowed freely through a ditch created by Nym Zoland while a wall of searing flame scorched three wailing undead warriors. The heroes were beginning to tire, and the monsters seemed to sense this. Taking the upper hand, they pushed forward, pressing the front line of warriors. Most of the warriors were wounded, some seriously, others lightly. Fear crept into Flard’s heart, making it cold and heavy. Losing all feeling, he realized, was the only way that he could win. He numbed himself to his own heart, and changed into a huge panther. Bearing his sharp fangs, he leaped into the fray to help the warriors.
The previously grinning Klvar Elf frowned, not liking the unusual strength of the monsters. ‘As usual,’ Cerin thought, ‘Creature has cheated.’ Although he hated to do this, Cerin thought it necessary to help the heroes. With a softly hummed song, five yellow-orange arrows slammed into the chests of five different monsters, instantly killing them. With a sigh of resignation, Cerin teleported back to his home. Not in the heavens, but in a tower inside a huge, floating, crystal sphere.
A huge, monstrous, scaly form was no longer grinning. He had cheated, bringing his creatures back to life, and infusing them with new strength. His counterpart, though, had taken him completely by surprise. Not only had he observed the battle, but he had interceded, which was against the agreement.
Sitting in his throne room, he hissed and opened the compartment which held the Crystal Weapons. Seeing the shifting hypnotic colors always soothed him.
“Hmm, since Cerin has decided to break the rules and run, that leaves no one to stop me.” With a malicious grin to the rotting ogre mage corpse embedded in the wall, he summoned his minions. In a flash of darkness, Collossus, Archangel, Death, Anger, and Pain, his most trusted demons, appeared before him. “Go to the First Battle, and make it the Last.” Nodding in unison, they disappeared. The name of the battle, the First Battle, had been used by his counterpart. It implied that there would be others, but Creature doubted that. His demons would eradicate the puny heroes that Cerin had gathered, and then Cerin himself.
“Master.” The icy voice of a powerful undead wizard, a lich, whispered, carefully bringing him out of his visions of conquest. “Time Reaver is at the First Battle, O Powerful One.” The lich always knew just what to say, unlike the late ogre mage.
“Excellent, excellent.” Creature’s plan was right on schedule.
Snow followed them. As soon as they had boarded the ship, it had begun to snow. Even when it was much too warm, the snow followed them. At first, it was only an annoyance. After a while, the group on the hundred-year-old vessel began to fear what the snow would signify. They used the powers that they had taken from Creation’s measly inhabitants to try and stop the snow, but these powers only seemed to worsen the problem, as if the souls of the powers’ previous masters still controlled them. At last, they had to resort to their native powers. These powers were evil, born and thriving in darkness. The snow finally succumbed and ceased to fall. An hour later, however, the snow resumed its steady fall. Why should the most powerful mortals in Creation fear snow? The snow showed the mortals who was really in control on Creation. This, and only this, could bring fear to these mortals.
The battle being over, wounded heroes, coming from planes and realities beyond the reach of imagination, rested together. The number of wounded was large, but they would soon be healed. Surprisingly, only five bodies lay broken and lifeless.
8th Level Wizard
Originated in Prime Plane of Existence
Member of the Crusaders
7th Level Cleric
Originated in Prime Plane of Existence
Member of the Crusaders
8th Level Inanimate
Originated in Creation
Member of the Heroes of Creation
4th Level Fighter
Originated in Prime Plane of Existence
Member of the Spelljammers
Artigent Drow Elf
11th Level Animate
Originated in Creation
Member of the Heroes of the Wave
A rumbling sound vibrated through the demolished stone room, bringing the warriors back to their senses. They all feared that they wouldn’t live through another battle, but for some reason did not fear what was about to happen. On the other side of the room, where the monsters had appeared and reappeared, an elf, a Klvar Elf, appeared. He was dressed in orange-yellow robes, and had long yellow hair. He spoke with a voice that reverberated throughout the room.
“You, my heroes, come from all realms and all worlds. You have aided me in my quest, and have defeated the Creature’s minions. You all have questions and they shall be answered. But first, this battle shall be recorded in the Tome of Knowledge. All of your names shall go down in history. Your dead shall also be honored as the Casualties of the First Battle. I shall meet with each group of you individually and answer any reasonable questions that you may have.” With this, he was gone. A door appeared in a wall of the room, which opened. Each hero walked through the door, finding himself in a crystal sphere, looking out on his or her own plane.
The crystal sphere was near. They all felt it, though it was a long way from being visible. It was a slow sickening of the stomach, a sense of doom, a prophecy of their destruction. They knew it only to be a false feeling, one to drive them away, yet it troubled them much as the snow had. Through the powers of the inhabitants of this plane, they had gained a sixth sense of goings on here. Their hundred-year-old vessel creaked and groaned, straining under the increasing wind. They could also feel another presence, one that they were familiar with. They felt evil, growing and pulsing, throughout the sphere that they now could see. The evil was still trapped outside this plane, but they could feel it nonetheless. Another boat was anchored here, seemingly waiting for them. They sneered, knowing the uselessness of these puny creatures. Gathering their power, they headed toward the doomed ship.
“All hands on deck! All hands on deck! Battle stations!” The call resounded through the ship. The Heroes of the Wave realized that the dark ship wanted a battle, and by Cerin, they were going to give it one. Even though their leaders were in an unknown hell (who knows what went on inside that damned crystal sphere), they would defend their position to the last man. “Battle stations! Lyntar, you command the cannons! Where’s the mages? Where’s those damned mages?”
“They’re in the map room, sir. They seem to have some kind of plan. They didn’t want to tell you about it, fearing that you’d stop them.” Lyntar, the first mate, seemed to doubt his own resolve, but held strong.
“Very well. Let’s give these bastards all that we’ve got!”
From the first pass of the battle, the Heroes of the Wave knew that they were doomed. These sailors had more power than anyone had imagined a mortal could have. Then again, no one knew that they were mortal. Their ship was crippled, listing to one side and then another. The ships were now passing for a fifth time, and it looked like the dark ship was planning to finish off the Heroes of the Wave.
“Get ready for another pass!! I want EVERY cannon shot, along with EVERY arrow killing a man! Understood?”
A resounding “Aye!” was heard. With a brisk nod, the Captain prepared to die.
An observer of this battle would have doubted his own sanity. He would have seen a ship beginning to sink, then growing magical glowing swans’ wings and taking off into the air. He then would have seen everything, from chairs and globes, to pieces of the ship, thrown down at the other ship, crashing through deck and hull. As the dark ship sank, he would have seen six black rays shoot from the ship and envelop the flying vessel. By the time that the magic was finished, the ship, the crew, and even the magical wings were gone, apparently vanished into nothing. The winning vessel would have seemed to glow with a black aura, mending itself, and ceasing to sink. The ship continued on to the crystal sphere. There was, in fact, one observer. Not observing from outside, but inside the sphere. His heart ached at the necessary loss of the valiant heroes. He knew that they were in a better place.
Trident the Orange walked out through the hole in the wall of the crystal sphere. He was met by the shivaks, but met with another in his long string of surprises. His Spelljammer was gone. He could feel it still there, but he could not see it. He wondered what kind of invisibility spell could cover a spelljamming ship the size of a city. He stepped on the longboat with a new kind of respect. Respect for Creation, respect for his friends, new and old, and respect for himself. Cerin had confided to him (but to no one else, or so he had said) that he was not a god, but a descendant of a god. He was immortal, and had created this entire plane. He had thanked Trident for his help and said that his destiny with Creation was not yet finished. Trident didn’t know if he believed the words of Cerin, but decided not to contradict him openly. Just then, he saw the reason for his ship disguising itself. There was another ship, not the one that had been here previously, but a darker ship, one that radiated evil from the very planks that it was built from. Trident smiled, knowing that he was not seen by them, and thinking of a few things that he would like to do to that ship.
The remaining Heroes of the Wave mourned the loss of their companions, but left the sphere with newfound confidence and power. They realized that their part in this vast play was not yet over. Made up of foreigners and of natives, they resolved to help Cerin in the times to come, for he warned them of a coming of darkness and of change. He opened one of the many doors of his sphere, and they were gone.
Cerin felt privileged and honored to be in the presence of these three illustrious people. Zestra and Omareth Freth were good friends of a god of the Prime Plane, Zardon Silenthands. Ladnia Falder was a descendant of his own father, Cyndre. Cyndre was a god of another reality, a god of Magic. The group had come together before this, fighting for good in a war on the Prime Plane of Existence. He was particularly taken with Ladnia, for her experience in war and in magic had seemed to enhance her beauty. None of the people gathered here were native to this reality, not even Cerin himself. He wished them well, and told them which door went to the Prime Plane. Ladnia seemed to have an idea, yet she was afraid to ask.
“Go on, Ladnia.”
“I wish to stay with you, Cerin. I feel that you will need me, and I you.” He nodded, beaming from ear to ear. They talked for a long time, each of their own experiences, and of gained things and lost things. By the time that they began to notice things other than each other, Zestra and Omareth were gone.
Heroes of Creation. What was all this fuss about a name? Illent Des was tired, as always, and wondered why everyone was making a big deal about receiving a name from Cerin. The group had only helped to defeat these demons, and nothing more. They were still extremely weak and needed more training, more time, before they would be ready to face anything important. He was polishing his sword and his armor when Nym Zoland walked up to him.
“What is troubling you, Illent? You seem more troubled than ever, yet we have just vanquished a group of demons. We have done the impossible. Should you not be happy and celebrate with us?” Illent looked into Nym’s face, and saw true concern, not just curiosity.
“Do you truly want to know, Cleric? I will tell you then. We HELPED to vanquish demons. We BARELY survived. There is more battle ahead. We must be ready. Now is not the time for celebration, now is the time for preparation.”
“You truly believe that, don˛t you, Fighter. ‘Tis true that we only helped, yet were it not for us, the group would not have succeeded. You may accuse me of an ego, yet I know it to be true. How many people get to fight for and with the god they worship? How many people get to change history? How much more fighting do you need to satisfy your incurable hunger for bloodshed?”
“I DO NOT CRAVE BATTLE! I despise it, yet we must be prepared for it. I will not celebrate tonight, Cleric, though I will thank whatever forces aided us in our battle, for we were not alone.”