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    The Fall of a Paladin: Conspiracies, Riddles and Arrows
    Posted on Sun, May 05, 2002 by Dogadmin
    Man-of-the-Cranes writes "The saga of the ill-fated Paladin of Heironeous continues as Governor-Knight Michael Torgrim fulfils duties to his new Lord-Mayor.

    Author: Man-of-the-Cranes


    Chapter Five
    Conspiracies, Riddles and Arrows

    By: Man-of-the-Cranes
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Extracts taken from the Journal of Michael Torgrim, former Governor-Knight of Talonkeep, and fallen paladin of Heironeous (found by Justin Galahad in the ruins of Talonkeep, circa Spring 584 CY):

    Leeahn and Aurora returned home from Chendl a week later. Leeahn was drained emotionally, but she was otherwise well. She was overjoyed with her ring and stunned that I had made such a sacrifice. I had missed her so whilst she had been away and tried to express my feelings. I should have held back the ring. I should have anticipated her reaction at being gifted with such powerful magic. Magic that would restore her health to what it once was and allow her to practise her more powerful conjuration's safely once again. I should have known.

    Leeahn took her ring of wishes into her tower, Thelgaard, and locked herself away with it for weeks. I should have known.

    But that is the Leeahn that I know and love.

    Aurora used her divinations to help me discover my friend's fate, and although her auguries were disappointedly vague we discovered that they were no longer on Oerth. I couldn't be sure at the time (although now I know better), but I was certain that the mysterious shadowlands had drawn them back. I prayed to Heironeous that it wouldn't be so, but Rushlight had said that even the power of the Invincible One was weak in that grim and dark world.

    I shared my new-found excitement at the discovery of 'The Enemies of the Old One' with Aurora (and with Leeahn when I was lucky enough to see her), and we spent many hours studying and discussing the book. I was excited by what it had to offer, but my time for study was growing shorter. I could not ignore my new duties as Governor-Knight of Talonkeep.

    My new lord, Nerof Gasgal, needed my services and in his name I began to fulfil my new duties. A very politically influential judge in the city was being victimised by a shadow-mage that had escaped his justice. Nerof Gasgal sent me with two of his other foreign agents a half-elven druid called Mendrill Po and an elven bladesinger, both from Celene, to assist the judge. The shadow-mage was allied with a cult of bullywugs calling themselves the Hopping Prophets of Wastri. We defeated the cult and the shadow-mage, earning the judges' gratitude and saving Lord-Mayor Gasgal from political embarrassment. But sadly, the kind druid was killed.

    I returned home to discover that I had problems there too. One of my patrols had gone missing in the nearby Gnarley Forest. On Morgan's recommendation, I selected two of my men who knew the forest very well to investigate. The elven soldier Gerril and a halfling archer from town called Willem.

    What should have been a routine mission turned into a terrible disaster and I came closer to being forever killed than I ever had been before. My patrol had been captured by a group of kech. The kech had psionic su-monsters guarding their lair. The three of us fell foul to the su-monsters, and were also captured. Most of the first patrol had already been eaten, but as a prisoner on the first night I was forced to watch as two more of my men were tortured, cooked alive and eaten by the kech tribe. I was horrified, these men were innocent soldiers who were merely doing their duty, and they were my responsibility. I would gladly have died in their place.

    The following night I almost did. Myself and Willem were chosen as the evening meal, the kech almost scalped us as they shaved our heads clean with blunt knives and then strung us up like a couple of animals to cook over their fire. As we began to roast on the spit we were rescued at the very last minute - by wolves. But these were no ordinary wolves they were huge white creatures that breathed a poisonous mist, and I would swear an oath that they were intelligent.

    When we returned home, Leeahn was devastated and swore never to let me out of her sight again. The trials I have to go through to get Leeahn to emerge from her tower!

    Our next mission for the Lord-Mayor was to assist a woman, Velma Raven in discovering what had happened to her employers, the detectives Rose and McGuffy. Gerril and Willem again assisted me, with Leeahn and Aurora, we soon learned that the assassin's guild had stolen an artefact from Nerof Gasgal's own treasury and that the detectives had discovered and were investigating this.

    The mission was not a great success, Velma and Gerill were both killed as we penetrated the assassin's guildhall and we were too late to discover that the detective McGuffy and the artefact had already gone.

    The Lord-Mayor sent us to consult a sage in the Cairn Hills to discover where it had been taken. The sage, a sphinx was only able to give us limited help (I absolutely detest riddles and cryptic clues with a passion!) and in the end there was something of a political cover-up.

    Turin Deathstalker, a man widely known as the hidden ruler of the assassin's guild was also one of the cities' secret rulers and a very close personal friend of Gasgals. This made it even more shocking that he condoned, and even possibly executed the theft himself. Deathstalker resigned from both of his positions and had vanished from the city, along with the artefact. The artefact, known as the Eagle of the Ages was a deadly weapon…

    However as we were returning from visiting the sphinx we were attacked by manticores…

    * * * * *

    17 Patchwall 579CY
    The first manticore lay slain, it's filthy blood staining the rocks beside the lake and spreading like a dark blossom into the water, one leathery wing still smouldering from Leeahn's conjured flames. Michael and Leeahn stood shoulder to shoulder and turned their backs on the corpse. Breathing heavily they scanned the cloudy night sky.

    "There were at least two others," Leeahn's hands were unconsciously sorting the vital materials that she kept in her pockets to craft her magic.
    Michael had to concentrate to hear her above the screaming of her horse that had remained tethered with Willem's pony at their campsite.

    "I think that the largest beast took of with my mount," answered Michael adjusting his grip on his sword. "Where's Willem?"

    "I saw him take cover under those trees near where he was sleeping. I think he was injured." Leeahn raised her hands quickly as an imagined shadow passed over them.

    The attack had come so suddenly and unexpectedly. They had been returning back to the city after riddling with the sphinx and the three of them were camped on the southern banks of Diamond Lake. Leeahn had conjured a small two-room cabin for herself and Michael to throw down their bedrolls. Willem, as was his preference, had been sleeping under the stars.

    Their horses and Willem's pony were tethered to a post outside the cabin. They had all been asleep when the manticores attacked, and Michael cursed himself for being complacent.

    He had not thought it necessary to insist they take turns standing guard, they were all experienced in the wilderness and light enough sleepers. The most trouble anyone was likely to expect out here were bandits, maybe the occasional ogre. They had all believed that the horses would alert them in good time to deal with that. But manticores! Whilst not unheard of, it was certainly uncommon.

    The horses certainly had awoken them, albeit too late. The mounts had screamed in panic as Michael's own war-horse was dragged away into the night sky.

    Michael and Leeahn had reacted quickly, Michael grabbing sword and shield, Leeahn her pouches, and with magic and steel they had slain one of the beasts.

    The battle was fierce, but swift and had driven them from the cabin a short distance to the water's edge.

    Now, Michael remembered the third manticore flying in circles around those trees firing its vicious tail spikes but ultimately held at bay from the other mounts by Willem's unerring arrows flying unseen from the cover of darkness.

    Michael glanced back at the trees "Can you give us some light? They are likely to return at any moment."

    "I can do more than that." Leeahn tossed her thick red hair back over her shoulders and spoke words of magic, her fingers weaving between them as she conjured their protection.

    As Michael waited watching the sky and the trees, Leeahn's voice rose and fell varying in tone and speed, her hand's motion matching her voice.

    In moments she was done, but before she completed her spells Michael felt a familiar momentary stiffness in his limbs as a potent magical protection settled over his body. The lightning bolt symbol on his shield burst into light throwing a daylight bright radiance sixty feet over the campsite, and beside him Leeahn's form wavered and multiplied until there were eleven beautiful conjurers beside him instead of just the one. The illusionary Leeahns perfectly mirroring her every action to confuse any would-be attackers.

    Satisfied that they were now more prepared, they both stepped away from the lake and headed for the trees some eighty feet from the waters edge. Michael held his sword ready and his shield was raised to the sky above both himself and the real Leeahn close at his side. The illusionary Leeahns formed a circle around them as they moved across the open ground cautiously.

    "Willem!" Michael called out. "Answer us if you can."

    * * * * *

    Bright light fell upon the trees behind the log cabin. Leeahn's noble riding horse and his own pony had stopped screaming but were still huffing and whinnying in fright, pulling on their ropes.

    Willem lay on the ground at the base of the tree, slowly coming to his senses. His leg felt like it was on fire and his skull throbbed painfully. Groaning in pain he gingerly felt down his thigh with one hand, not daring to look, until he discovered both spikes deeply embedded just above his left knee. He winced in pain as he remembered the attack.

    He had awoken immediately as the manticore dragged aloft Michael's war-horse. Willem had scrambled up the nearest tree taking shelter in its thick branches, and cried out the alarm. With his powerful shortbow he had saved the other two mounts by putting five arrows into each of the beasts before Michael and Leeahn had emerged to do battle.

    As they had fought and killed the manticore beside the lake, Willem had battled alone and desperately for his own life, sinking arrow after arrow into the beast as it circled his tree trying to dislodge him from his perch with its spikes.

    In the end the enraged manticore had landed at the foot of the tree and shook it so violently with its powerful forelegs that he had fallen.

    The only thing that had saved his life as he was knocked unconscious by the fall was the terrific cry of pain as Michael and Leeahn slew the beasts' mate and startled it into flight.

    "Willem! Answer us if you can." He heard Michael's worried voice as he approached the grove. But instead of answering immediately he found his quiver, pulled an arrow and bit down on it as he pulled the spikes from his leg.

    The arrow helped to save his tongue but he still cried out as the spikes pulled free.

    * * * * *

    "Did you hear that?" Michael started to run into the grove.

    "I heard that!" Leeahn cried as the beat of leathery wings passed close overhead.

    They both stopped as the two huge beasts hovered above them, illuminated against the night sky by Michael's enchanted shield.

    The manticores were huge, their bodies were those of massive male lions but their heads were horribly humanoid - like a great and misshapen man's head impossibly covered in a feline's fur and colouring; their mouths too-wide and filled with a double-row of wicked teeth. Their chins and jawline sprouted nasty black curved barbs that would have looked like a dwarf's braided beard if they hadn't shone with an evil light, these curved spikes ran the length of the beast's spines and along their tails to end in a nasty cluster of deadly spikes. Black dragon wings held them aloft and they circled the conjurer and the knight.

    The manticores seemed to study their opponents for the briefest of moments with a hungry intelligence glowering in their gaze. Then the one beast that bled from a multitude of arrow wounds roared its defiant challenge.

    Michael instinctively raised his shield as the creature swung around its flail-like tail and let loose a volley of spikes. Its partner did the same. Michael and Leeahn could do nothing but weather the storm. The vicious spikes fell upon them like a deadly hail. Michael felt several of them strike him but was uninjured under Leeahn's protective spell. Leeahn's illusions began to vanish, pierced by the spikes, and then the monsters landed.

    They fought intelligently landing to either side of them, deliberately flanking them. Leeahn was shouting words of magic as Michael leaped at the closest and injured beast. His sword ripped a nasty red wound across the manticore's face closing one eye. The creature roared in pain and swung its heavy paws at the knight, wicked eight inch talons raked gouges across Michael's shield. He staggered under the blow, but planted his feet firmly and swung again, severing tendons in the monster's foreleg.

    Behind him Leeahn was still protected by three illusions, as the largest of the three manticores futily swung at the not-Leeahn images before it.

    The wizard conjured fiery bolts of flame and cast them directly into the creature's face. Four short lances of fire found their target before her illusions fell, horribly burning the manticores head and forequarters.

    Willem had limped from the trees and was firing volley after volley of deadly arrows at both creatures.

    Michael staggered back again forced into a crouch as his shield folded and buckled around his arm. The manticore was raking his arm and shoulder now, but Leeahn's spell still held strong and he was unharmed. He knew that protection couldn't last much longer though and was almost recklessly attacking the monster in an effort to take it down or drive it off before he lost his arm.

    The manticore before Leeahn was enraged with pain, its face was still burning, it was bleeding from the constant arrows driving into its flank. It swung one huge paw at Leeahn and its claws ripped across her stomach, its rage knew no bounds as its talons may as well have met stone.

    A second claw attack caused the human no harm, tearing her robes to shreds but bouncing from her seemingly unguarded flesh.

    The woman lunged at it, punching the beast arrogantly in the jaw. A searing bolt of electricity leaped from her fist and crackled through its body bringing new levels of pain.

    It crouched back withdrawing, its tail curled threateningly above its head and whipping from side to side. Leeahn stood her ground casting again and throwing another bolt at the huge manticore, this one conjured from acid. The burning liquid splashed into the monster's already burnt face melting away its features.

    The manticore launched another volley of spikes, firing blindly through its pain, the barbed tail-spikes rained down on the conjurer. The first caused not a scratch, but then Leeahn cried out in pain as a spike pierced her shoulder, another sank into her stomach and then her legs collapsed as she felt them bite into her thighs and foot.

    Michael threw a panicked glance over his shoulder as he heard Leeahn fall, but the manticore did not press its attack. Leeahn had rolled away from it and he knew that she was reaching for her healing potions, the beast was writhing on the ground, clawing at its face as the acid Leeahn had already thrown continued to eat into its skull.

    The manticore was unable even to fend off Willem's constant assault as the halfling stood a scant five feet away mercilessly piercing it with arrows.

    The manticore screamed and died.

    Michael saw all of this in a heartbeat, but that was all the advantage his opponent needed. The remaining manticore sensed his distraction and lunged, its attack so fierce Leeahn's protection on the knight finally failed.

    The manticore closed its jaw over his shoulder and sank its teeth violently into his chest and shoulder blades. The manticore reared up onto its hindlegs and shook the knight as it held him in its maw.

    Michael cried out in agony and more by reflex and instinct than conscious action, he lunged and thrust his sword halfway to the hilt into the beast's throat.

    Leeahn had removed the barbs that had injured her and drank a potion that had stemmed the flow of the blood, but she had no time to react further.

    She saw the manticore rise up on its hind legs, lifting Michael from the ground and she screamed thinking it was about to take flight.

    Willem thought the same, and frantically tried to save his lord, in his panic he somehow dropped his quiver scattering his arrows. Hearing only Michael's cry of pain and Leeahn's scream of panic he dropped to his knees to gather his remaining arrows.

    He did not see the manticore begin to fall, killed at last by Michael's desperate but lethal blow. In less than a heartbeat the halfling strung an arrow…

    …Leeahn screamed…

    …and let fly…

    …the manticore and Michael fell together in a tangled and bloody heap…

    …"WILLEM! NO!"…

    …the halfling's arrow whistled through the air…

    …Leeahn's hands raised in a futile effort…

    …and struck Michael in the neck sinking to its feathers.

    Time seemed to slow as Willem saw Leeahn collapse in horror, he felt his bow fall from nerveless fingers, he was aware that his pony had finally broken her rope and bolted into the night.

    Willem saw a bubble of blood swell and burst on his lord's lips as Michael fell, and with the manticore, he died.
    "
     
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    Re: The Fall of a Paladin: Conspiracies, Riddles and Arrows (Score: 1)
    by Man-of-the-Cranes (manofthecranes@canonfire.com) on Mon, June 03, 2002
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.ManoftheCranes.com
    This tale, and other connected stories will be continued on my website www.ManoftheCranes.com along with my ongoing play-by-email game which is a direct descendant and continuation of this campaign.

    Cheers
    Man of the Cranes



    Re: The Fall of a Paladin: Conspiracies, Riddles and Arrows (Score: 1)
    by Mystic-Scholar on Mon, October 05, 2009
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://mysticscholar.blogspot.com/
    I can only suppose that there must be more to the story as I do not see how Michael became a "fallen paladin," which signifies to me that he fell from Grace, which is not evident here.

    If he fell in battle, a.k.a. died, then who wrote this in his journal? From which we are supposedly reading.

    Also, the move from First Person narrative to a Live Action sequence just doesn't work here. We're supposed to be "reading" from his journal. The entire "story" should therefore be First Person narrative, with no Live Action sequence.

    In addition, the "story" should have ended when he left for this mission, just as a real journal entry would have done.

    The story should have then moved into First Person narrative from Leeahn's, or Willem's point of view. Since Michael died in the battle, he could never have told his side of the story to us.

    So with the beginning of the fight scene, the story should have shifted from Michael's First Person narrative to Willem's First Person narrative.

    It did sound like an interesting game and would make a good story. But the story presentation needs restructuring.




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