Threshold

Episode 6: Wrath of the Goddess
In Which Our Heroes Escape the Island.

(illustrations by Stephen Fabian and Jeff Easley, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

The castaways rested. By the time they felt ready to press on, they could hear scratching at the top of the collapsed shaft. The prospect of facing more goblins or orcs convinced them to make haste.

They followed the tunnel behind the secret door to a vast underground chamber, its walls beyond the range of Alistina’s light of Lunia. To the east they saw three niches, similar to the storerooms above; one section of the south wall looked like smooth, worked stone.

Theronna, now recovered from her ghoul fever, started toward the first niche, the others trailing behind her. A brick wall separated the chamber from the next niche; it contained an upraised slab of stone in its exact center. Idly touching the tender wound on his chest left by the crossbow trap, Zeke moved closer to the slab, saying “Somebody with keener eyes’n mine should check this out…”

Eilir, who’d been standing behind Zeke, nodded and moved to examine the room. Alistina moved to the second niche, where she found a similar slab, with the body of a man upon it.

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Episode 5: Under the Manor
In Which an Old Man's Treachery Takes Its Toll.

(illustration by Stephen Fabian, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

“He’s dead,” Alistina said, not finding a pulse along Osric’s neck. Zeke stared at Theronna, dumbfounded. The soldier took no notice, her attention fixed on the old man’s body, her face glistening with sweat and scarlet.

“We need to find that boat, now.” Eilir wasn’t sure if she should be shocked or grateful. She looked at the map and moved down the hall, wand out. “I don’t want to stay down here and test fate.”

“She’s right,” said Alistina. “I don’t want to be around for the destruction of the island.”

“Ya didn’t have to kill ‘im,” Zeke said softly to Theronna before turning away.

“Sure she did.” Alistina moved to where she could see Theronna’s face. “You did, didn’t you?” Getting no reply, she followed Eilir and Zeke down the tunnel.

Theronna knelt beside Osric, closing the old man’s eyes. “Sorry, Osric,” she sighed, holding his limp white hair in her hand. “One day I’ll meet you on the other side.”

The long white hair reminded her of a man in Waterdeep, the man who met the VIPs she’d escorted there. That’s right, she wasn’t attacked on the way to Waterdeep; it was on the way back. That man wasn’t to be trusted, either. What was his name…?

She coughed, the first in a chain of hacking coughs; she pulled herself together, then started after the others.

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Episode 4: Into the Catacombs
In Which Our Heroes Descend.

(illustration by Stephen Fabian, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

The four castaways moved into the hall, planning to cross to the other side of the manor, where Osric said they’d find the hidden entrance to the catacombs. Theronna leaned on Alistina for support.

Zeke whispered “There’s some goblins ‘round the corner ‘n’ down a bit.”

“Great,” said Alistina. “Anyone got a plan?”

“Sneak past ‘em?” Zeke offered weakly. Eilir held her tongue instead of replying.

They moved into the cross-hall, which ran nearly two hundred feet to the other side of the manor, with several sets of double doors on either side.

“Intellego!” Eilir spoke the wand’s command word, bringing its detection magic to life. Paying close attention to its rosy glow as she walked, the wizard bumped into Zeke, muttering an apology and trying to hide her blushing face by looking intently at the floor.

Alistina saw the wand’s glow brighten a bit when they reached the midpoint of the hall. Before she could say anything, Theronna pointed to the north and said “Someone’s coming.”

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Episode 3: The Sea-King's Manor
In Which Our Heroes Hide and Sneak.

(Illustration by Stephen Fabian, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

The castaways awakened from fitful sleep, the dawn which greeted them muted by the ongoing storm – and by the goddess’s ultimatum.

“So, old timer,” Alistina said to Osric, “we better get off this island today.”

Zeke frowned at his growling stomach. “Some grub’d be nice, too. Ain’t too keen on the notion-a sneakin’ through the goblins on a empty stomach.”

“Can’t help with food,” replied Osric. “Mebbe we kin fish off th’ boat once we’re away.”

Disappointed, Zeke busied himself with Hafkris’s crossbow.

“Sure you know how to use that thing?” Alistina asked.

“Sure’n I do. Point an’ click. Ain’t a simpler weapon out there that ain’t a stick.”

He smiled as if he’d made a joke; Alistina couldn’t be sure if he had. Eilir obviously had her doubts, but said nothing, packing up her spellbook once she was finished with it.

Stetching himself out with a riot of cracks and pops, Osric said “Manor’s about a thousand yards north. There’s a depression we kin use ta sneak most of th’way to it. All th’entrances ‘re guarded, but thar’s a window with loose bars I been usin’ ta git in ‘n’ out.”

“Then let’s go,” said Theronna, belting on her sword.

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Episode 2: Temple of the Goddess
In Which Our Heroes' Respite Proves Fleeting.

(Illustration by Stephen Fabian, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

The four castaways followed Osric through the cold and rain, in search of the shelter the old man had promised them.

Osric told them about his former master, Viledel, and that the Sea-King died when pirates raided the island sixty years ago. But the pirates never found the real treasure.

“Treasure?” Zeke asked – yelled, really, over the deafening wind – “That why them orcs ‘n’ goblins are about?”

Osric replied “Aye!” without looking back. “The orcs came to plunder the temple three days ago, ‘n that’s when the storm started. They got the message – they won’t go back there.”

“That’s where you plan to hole up?” Theronna gathered twigs and branches as she walked.

“S’best. Orcs’re in the ol’ soldier’s barracks, ‘n’ th’ goblins’ve taken o’er th’ stables.”

“Won’t we anger the goddess too?” asked Eilir, wringing rainwater out of her hair.

“Nah. Th’orcs came to plunder, and they made a terrible mess o’things. If ya just come to spend the night ye’ll be safe.”

Seeing Theronna’s actions, Alistina began to do the same, not wanting to go without a fire for lack of fuel.

They followed back trails and crossed rough terrain until they came to a hill, topped by a two-story structure that had seen better days, surrounded by a wrought iron fence. No lights, smoke, or other sign of habitation could be seen. Osric opened the fence’s rusty gate with an alarming squeal and led the way to the front door.

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Episode 1: Marooned
In Which Our Heroes Gather, and Our Story Begins.

(Illustrations by Stephen Fabian, from N4 Treasure Hunt)

The ship lurched in the storm for hours without end. The forward hold was devoid of all light, the noise deafening. Four desperate souls lay shackled to their bunks in that darkness, each in their own private agony.

All at once, the crashing sound of the waves was drowned out by a tremendous crash which caused the entire ship to shudder – she must have run aground.

Shortly came the sound of snapping spars and a great crash which could only have been the mast coming down. The prisoners were thrown forward, but were rooted to the spot by their shackles, bringing fresh agony to bruised and chafing wrists.

The impact shattered the ship’s bow, tearing it away entirely and allowing a sharp blast of cold air and rain into the hold. A great boulder ground against the port side of the ship, buckling one of the bunks as the ship ground to a halt.

Then there was only the sound of fierce wind and pounding surf, and the sight of rain-pounded beach outside of the open bow.

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