Rappan Athuk

The Unluckiest Salamander Ever

The Unluckiest Salamander Ever
Kunas is Strong
Kunas is strong. Kunas is powerful. Fierce. For now, must stand guard for king.
“Kunas! Kunas! Come here!”
But king not worthy. Only he worthy. Kunas should be king. All know it. Kunas will be king. One day.
“Kunas, you wretched wretch!” Ah, there is the voice of the king. Always to berate me.
“My liege”. Yes, one day soon.
“Get your worthless carcass to the outer cavern. Investigate that disturbance. Report back with speed!”
Yes, you boss me now. Sit now on your throne. For a while more. Command your army of salamanders. But any one of us six is mightier than you.
Kunas is smart. Kunas can count. Six salamanders.
And this we all know. We as salamanders are mighty, and should control all of this dungeon. Salamanders should not serve anyone. Not even Orcus. This is our world. We are the power. Not to bow and scrape to anyone.
“As you command!” But soon. Soon. My turn. My sharp spear will cut your guts. Then lop off your head, for me to use like toilet. Use stinking orb to call fire elementals to your service – spinning above my throne room. Whoever sits on the throne, commands orb. Commands elementals. And that soon will be me.
“What are you waiting for, you putrid lizard? Go now!” Soon, my turn. Soon Kunas controls the orb. Commands the elementals. Be king.
Going through blue door, my friend Leluki stand guard. He open door for me, sneer on his face. Yes, my friend. You also shall die. Die like all the other salamanders. Kunas is strong. He will be king.
.
The cavern – yes, there has been an intrusion. And door. Door to efreeti. They serve Orcus like silly salamander king. They too will serve me soon. But why is door open? Ah, I see now. Mighty efreeti. Always think they better than Kunas. Now, they lay dead. Stupid efreeti. Not so mighty now. And they leave their silly treasure. Too hot to touch. No good for them anymore. Still, something strong must have come to kill efreeti. Kunas not stupid. He know whatever kill efreeti must be strong.
But where they go? They must run away. Leave treasure. Maybe too hot for their soft hands. Must know that Kunas is now here. Cowards. Run away for now. But you’ll come back. They always do. And Kunas will kill them then. And then Kunas kill king. And Kunas be then king, make all salamanders bow down before him. And no one will be mightier. Kunas is strong.
*
Reunion with the Fire Hawks
Following the battle with the efreeti, Mertat transports the party back to town.
“It is bitter we must leave treasure behind. There must be a way to cool it down so we claim it” exclaims Sever.
“There is powerful sorcery at work on that treasure” Abban says. “We’ll try and send out word to figure out a way to remove the sorcery. But for now, it appears there is a large gathering at Bristlebacks.”
Diverting their attention back to the town, the party now notices noise steadily streaming through the windows of Dead Vrock Inn, thrust open to let in a bit of air. The doors also are ajar, and there appears to be quite the crowd gathered. As they approach, the cause soon becomes apparent.
“The Fire Hawks are here!” proclaims Sabus. “That surely is Marcento singing a tale.”
As the party enters Dead Vrock Inn, the words spoken by Sabus are found to be true. Dressed in fine silks suitable for an audience with a king, Marcento is seated grandly upon a tall, battered stool upon the squat stage in the corner. Playing his dulcimer while weaving a new tale into song, Marcento’s voice rises above the hearty conversations amongst the tavern-goers. Not dismayed at the competition, he continues his song, smoothing words and tune together over the gathering, turning the divergent and contending noises within the tavern into a even and symphonic atmosphere.
Along with the Fire Hawks, it appears most of Zelkor’s Ferry has gathered for a bit of merriment. After long days shrouded in fog, it is a good omen that the people are defying the darkness and have gathered to greet these warriors.
Now that the party has arrived, the frivolity increases. The townsfolk greet the party with cheer, and Bristleback opens up the taps for the party. Soon, many of the concerns that have besieged all are lifted, if only for a while. Word spreads that Eccial has returned, and though he is greeted as well, the townsfolk soon leave him alone. His appearance now is quite grim, and even the skull mask cannot hide all the disfigurations which have been cursed upon Eccial.
After a long evening of celebration and merrymaking, the party gathers with the Fire Hawks once again in Bristleback’s private room. The wizard, Azerthen, recounts their most recent travels, while Mertat tells the Fire Hawks of the party’s own successes. The parties also exchange a few magical trinkets which each finds useful. Now, the party has protections it needs from fire. And in the morning, Mertat will pick up the rest of the usual assortment of transport scrolls and potions.
“But this is quite a happy outcome” Mertat finally declares, turning to a now quite radiant looking fellow cleric. “You look very well, much better than last we met!”
“Yes, thank you, Mertat” Kalina replies, understanding that Mertat is now talking about her. When last the parties met, Kalina had been nearly comatose, her mind and faith besieged and partially undone by all the evil and death Athuk had imposed upon her. In her derelict state, she had also prophesized that the bonds to this world were weakening, which now uncomfortably comes to back to the minds of the party.
“It is true. I spent time in a dark place. But I’ve now come to better accept the danger we all face, and the price that some of us must pay, even if it the ultimate and final toll. My faith has been restored. Perhaps seeing how relentless your group has accepted the challenges Athuk present have inspired me somewhat.”
“Gratitude, good priest” Mertat declares. “But strength must come from within. That strength is from thyself, and you must learn to grasp it, continue to hold it near. For you must first believe in yourself before you can be fully fulfilled and serve, as is the calling to all.”
Bowing her head, Kalina says “Again, thank you, Mertat. And to all of you, the, um,,,”. And then turning to Azerthen “I don’t think you’ve told me this group’s name. What is it?”
At that, Sabus groans and pounds his forehead into the table. Sever and Merzuk, now both wrapping bandages around bloody fingers after their most recent game, burst out in laughter.
“Soon enough, Kalina. I’m sure their most excellent bard Sabus shall divine their true name soon.” Smiling and laughing gently himself, he then continues.
“But I also must tell you all. We have heard of a tale of fallen hero. We believe the hero to be evil, though the stories are imprecise. What is clear, though, is that this hero has been assassinated. We are now trying to investigate this tale, for I believe it may be significant.”
“Strange tale” Abban agrees. “We have heard no such stories. But if you discover anything, I’d be most interested to hear. Evil often struggles against evil – and only when good is presented will they set aside their differences, usually, and ally to attack the goodly creations.”
“Certainly we will pass along any information we uncover” Azerthen affirms. “We’ve been using an entrance into Athuk through a mausoleum about a league north of town. We’ll try and send word, if any we gather.”
“But perhaps more important than this tale, we have begun to hear other whispers. Fearful rumors of an area in Athuk known as the Paths of Blood. We’ve seen a few writings with those words, and have heard snatches of stories of such a path during our recent passages. No more have we discovered, but whatever it is, the Paths of Blood seem to hold great evil.”
“Disturbing” Abban muses. “We’ll also see if we can gather anything about these Paths, and the story of this hero. When next we meet, we’ll exchange tales again. But for now…”
“Yes, it is late” Azerthen confirms, as does Bristleback who now enters the room and begins clearing the table. “We both have travels in the morning. It is time for rest.”
*
Kunas be King
How long must Kunas scrap down. To this fool. All day, stand guard. All day, fetch food. Check hallways. Every day, same.
No fun since day efreeti die. Several days ago now, Kunas not remember how many. But how salamander king howled when Kunas bring news. He stamp. He break throne, throw pieces everywhere.
Kunas was beat. True. But Kunas is strong. He can take punishment. Pain worth it to see king mad. And then king go away. Must report. Report bad news to Orcus. When king return, he extra very mad.
Now Kunas and other salamanders must stand guard always. Patrol halls. Guard throne room. Wait for return of enemy.
And king use orb to summon fire elementals. Orb spins in air before throne. Orb calls them. Three now he brings.
Kunas smart. Kunas can count. Three fire elementals.
One very big. Bigger even than Kunas. And two are smaller. All now gathered before throne. Guard weak king. Salamander king afraid.
Kunas guard hallway to blue door, with other salamander. Other salamander, my friend Leluki, who I will kill. More salamanders guard hallway on other side of throne. Lead to green door. They I will not kill. They I will allow serve Kunas. And even other two salamanders – they now bow before king. Weak king who bow down to Orcus. This Kunas will not do. All salamanders will serve Kunas – but not Leluki, my friend. I will kill.
What’s happening? Big noise. Salamander yells. There, on other side of room. Ah, we are attacked. It begins.
“Kill them, you fools!” King yells.
Foolish king. No need to tell us. So, they return. Puny soft humans. Small creatures. We will devour. Kunas see them now – come in through green door. Foolish mankind. They don’t know about blue door. Kunas will go out door, and circle behind humans. Then crush them. Kill them. And maybe see king die in battle. Then Kunas be king.
Leluki smacks me. Then pull my arm. I am coming. Yes. I come. Get behind humans then kill. Plenty of time. We go through blue door. Salamanders move fast, but Kunas faster still. Out blue door, down hall, yes. Hall is empty. Silly humans, not guarding hall. Now they get trapped.
Green door open. There, there are the humans, in hall leading to throne. Two very close. Others down at end of hall. They don’t see us. Kunas charge.
Ach, Kunas fall. Stupid salamander, one I will kill, he trip Kunas. Now humans see us, and no more surprise. No matter.
Ah, nice new pet. Human bring ice pet for us to play with. Delicious fun. Watch now as my spear carves elemental into ice shards.
Ouch. It is sharp, though. Ice pet as big as fire elemental. But nasty sharp. As sharp as Kunas spear. Kunas be careful now, but will destroy pet. Loud battle sounds come from throne room. Big fire. More fire elementals come – king must be afraid, call more from orb. Kunas not afraid, though. When he king, he not be afraid – he kill enemies with his spear, not nasty tricks and spells.
There. Just at entrance to throne room. One of king’s pets. It flames writhes – it ripples – it shatters. Fire elemental gone – dispelled, sent back to plane of flame. But what hit it? Nothing could be seen but great gashes ripped in pet. Ah, tricky humans. Must have sneaky invisibility. Kunas remember, must be careful.
Now, what nasty trick is this? Big waving things coming up from ground. Like soft tentacles from those floating creatures in waterfall cavern. But these are hard, and many, and big. Wrap around Kunas leg. Let go! Kunas must kill these things. But ice creature is still stinging. Kunas feel pain. Ignore pain, kill tentacles.
But other salamander, the one we will kill, now destroys ice pet. Good. Now we destroy tentacles. Black things. Many. Spear kill. Set Kunas free. Finally. Now Kunas can charge.
Ach, pain… Pain… Stupid salamander, the one Kunas will kill. Leluki trip Kunas, now hurt. Kunas fall on spear. Nasty sharp spear. Spear meant to kill humans. But now, stuck in Kunas. Stupid clumsy salamander, we remember how Leluki trip us. But Kunas is strong, ignore pain. Get spear from under tail. Try – get back on feet. Leluki say get up, but Leluki one who tripped Kunas. We remember. Kill Leluki later.
Behind humans, another human. Big warrior with metal skin. But not so big as Kunas. Warrior fall, and human that sent pet to play with Kunas now runs to warrior. What words it say? “I got that!” Kunas not understand.
But what other human have? Human point stick at Kunas. What is this? Kunas laugh at silly human. Playing with stick. Kunas kill and eat flesh of human…
Pain… Kunas… feel … pain…
Stick. Shoot flame. Pain. Blood. Human stick belch smoke. Now pain. Piece of Kunas now lies on ground.
Stick. Shoot flame. Again. More pain. Another piece of Kunas lies on ground. No children for Kunas.
Stone is warm. Comfort Kunas. Ease pain. But Kunas is strong. Stand up.
Human comes. Point stick at Kunas. Speaks words “I respect you, but you’re going down!”
Kunas is strong. But cannot move. Stick shoot flame… Shoot smoke… No more pain…
*
Kael shakes his head at the dead salamander at his feet. “Such a futile fight attempt I would certainly not have foreseen. We render a service to salamander-kind by separating this bungling one’s bloodline.” Shaking his head in disbelief at the utter ineptitude of the salamander, Kael joins the rest of the party in the throne room
Sever is wiping salamander gore from his maces. Abban also uses the cleric’s vestments to clean his sword. The severed head of the salamander king lies alone on the far side of the room, while its body is sprawled bloody across the throne.
“A bitter fight once again,” Abban sighs. “What’s the damage?”
“No worse than usual” Mertat replies, supporting Eccial into the room, having been revived to life once again. Eccial’s Skull Mask was lying near a dead salamander, and Kael hurries over to retrieve it for him.
“For your countenance, Eccial” Kael says as he presents the mask to Eccial. “Once again, you have fought with ferocity, and can lay much claim for our conquest.”
“Tha’nks” Eccial murmurs, securing the mask, once again hiding the painful scars of past battles.
“A nice haul of loot we have.” Sever surveys the magic and treasure trinkets collected from the throne room. Each of the salamanders wielded a magic long spear, but only five spears are collected. “Where’s the other spear?”
“Lodged in the backside of a salamander, now laid low” explains Kael. “Ineptest salamander I’ve ever seen. Couldn’t stride two steps without stumbling over itself. But the feckless one fought to the finish. Gouged it with two gunshots to the groin. But it kept coming. Ill-starred slicker of a salamander.”
Gathering the loot together, the party gathers and once more returns to Zelkor’s Ferry. And in the hallway lies Kunas, who would be king, but now with a new title. Kunas, the Unluckiest Salamander Ever.
*

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