by Wilgar & Mhoram
Translated from The Challenge Books
By Steven Goldstein A. K. A. Wilgar The Cleric
This story could not have been written without the help of a very special group of people whom I am proud to call friends.
Chris Colbath, known to many as High Lord Mhoram
The Dark Ones: Darkyr, Shadowstalker, Nightflier, Kretin, Duke Mordaryn, Raven, and the rest of the group.
And to the rest of the people whose creativity breathed life into the Challenge Books over the past eleven years.
And of course, to Andrew Crawford, The Arch-Mage of Evermore whose mere friendship inspires me to better myself.
Wilgar the Cleric.
Friday, August 23, 1996.
There is no doubt in my mind that every gamer who’s been playing for a while has been on adventures that were good enough to be written as novels. Occasionally a forum for adventuring is created that transcends the typical role-playing setting, allowing players to run their characters without the need of game mechanics like dice, character sheets or lead miniatures. Or even a Game Master, for that matter.
The particular example I’m referring to is called the Challenge Book. Simply put, it is a book where people of all gaming preferences and experiences can communicate with each other via the written word.
The origin of the book is a story in and of itself. However, it’s best left to be told at a later time. The tale I spin now originated in the book.
As the adventure began, many of the writers had not yet met each other in person, but had all been communicating with one another for quite a long time as their characters.
Eventually, the story began to flesh itself out into quite a daring episode of swords, sorcery, gallant chivalry, epic battles against hordes of ferocious, evil creatures bent on the destruction of the party of heroes.
The creatures were sent by a powerful and mysterious enemy whose plans were, evidently the complete dominance of the entire multi-verse. Well, you can see how a group of role-players can get carried away when left with no Game Master to guide them.
The story is called the Portal Warriors. It was originally created by a collected group of highly talented people. Now, I will attempt to relate it to you alone. Wish me luck!
Dramatis Personae: (In no significant order)
Wilgar the Cleric: High Priest of Titane, companion to Mhoram, Friend of the Dark Ones.
High Lord Mhoram: Resurgo, Spawn of Loki, a powerful Mage, companion to Wilgar, friend of and consultant to the Dark Ones.
The Dark Ones [dark wunz]: A collection of very powerful individuals, including but not limited to:
*Darkyr: Official fence of the Dark Ones, half-brother to the Ripper
*Kretin: Official giant-sized fighter/mage of the Dark Ones
*Nightflier: Originally “Knight Rider” was transformed and otherwise affected while being magically healed by Darkyr on an earlier Portal adventure
*The Ripper: Half-Ogre, an efficient fighter, Darkyr’s half-brother
Duke Mordaryn: Duke Ravenhold, Darklord, Lord General, Knight of Hearn, Third of the Nine, Etc., etc.
Deltor (with an ‘r”): The elven Mage, companion of the Dark Ones
Vern: Friend of Kretin, it was at his master’s citadel that the first portal was found and the adventure began…
* Indicates a Dark One
— // Preface // —
Kretin and Vern were simply trying to visit the citadel of Vern’s Master. As it was located on a different plane of existence, the journey had to be done via a magical transportation spell.
When they arrived at the citadel, the two companions discovered it to be surrounded by a palpable evil. And, someone had imprisoned Vern’s Master in a black sphere of magical energy. Kretin and Vern knew this magic was beyond them, and they would need help to solve the mystery and free the Master. They decided to leave this place, and return with help.
After various reconnaissance missions not only by Kretin and Vern, but also Night Flier, enough information was gathered to know that more information was needed. So, Wilgar, Kretin and Vern returned to discover what lay beyond a portal that had been found, and which Vern said did not belong to his Master’s keep.
A guardian in the form of a huge, skeletal hand sprung up from the ground before the portal as Kretin and Wilgar approached, after having received a warning that only a pious man may pass unharmed. It was hoped that the presence of the cleric would be sufficient protection for them all, but the Guardian attacked Kretin as he tried to follow Wilgar through the portal. Kretin’s leg was badly wounded during the attack. Vern pulled him away from certain death at the “hand” of the Guardian. (Sorry…couldn’t resist.) He looked for Wilgar to have him heal Kretin, but the priest had already passed through the portal and disappeared.
Wilgar, unaware of the attack on his companion, discovered that the portal had transported him to a room containing eight more portals, each exactly identical to the other. He examined the room briefly and found a piece of paper which, oddly enough, gave instructions on the use of the portals. Using that knowledge, he returned to Kretin and Vern in time to heal Kretin’s wounds and save his leg. The three then returned and reported their findings to Darkyr and the rest of the group.
It was decided that a full-fledged expedition to explore these new portals was needed. Eight volunteers were to go to the citadel, and each explore a single portal. The eight portals were divided in this way:
7. Night Flier
The various adventures and discoveries beyond the eight portals are stories for another time, but one important note should be made. Portal #1 had been proven to transport the user anywhere he wished to go. Of course the party used it as an exit from the room of eight portals to outside the citadel at the base-camp that was set up next to Wilgar’s Peterbuilt Longnose Semi-truck, a refer rig that was acquired earlier, and is, again a story of its own, for another time.
— // The Portal Warriors // —
The Portal Warriors returned to the citadel. Amongst them was a new companion: Duke Mordaryn.
Upon his first excursion to the portal room, Mordaryn’s keen senses proved their worth when he discovered a ninth portal hidden in the vast darkness of the ceiling.
“Well,” he said, “as I found it, I should be the one to explore it!”
The rest of the company retired to the camp to await his return. Not long after, the Duke returned and gave his report.
“I gained entry to a place which seemed to be a representation of the room of eight portals, except that instead of portals, there were large metal plates which looked to be filled with a swirling blue steam.”
Darkyr asked, “How do you know they aren’t portals also?”
Mordaryn faced Darkyr directly and said, “Because the beast struck me hard enough to knock me into one. It was solid enough.”
“Beast? What Beast?”
“When I first arrived in the room, there was a great black beast which attacked me. Apparently it was guarding the room against intruders. I can’t say much for its intelligence, the monster was fool enough to attack me while I wielded Soulbiter in a ready stance.”
“So? The beast was there to guard against intruders. What makes him a fool to attack just because you wield a sword?”
The Duke’s eyes narrowed and a small scowl crossed his face. Slowly, he drew Soulbiter from its bejeweled scabbard and held it before him, both hands on its finely crafted hilt. An air of tightly controlled power was felt by the whole group, though whether from the sword, or from the Duke himself none could say. Looking hard at Darkyr’s face, he asked “Would you?”
“Ah,” Said Darkyr. “I see your point. Please continue with your findings.”
Although it could be seen that Darkyr tensed when Mordaryn confronted him, there was no trace of fear in his visage — just the look that he was ready to react to whatever presented itself to him.
Mordaryn continued, “After a little experimentation, I discovered that through the plates one could look into the other portals and see what transpired beyond them. Through the equivalent of portal number one could be seen the events of wherever one wished to look. Upon the ceiling was even a plate to represent the ninth portal. I’m not certain what it all means, but that is what I found.”
“Hmm,” Said the Ripper. “Go figure.”
Wilgar the Cleric, who was rummaging around in the back of the truck came around toward the rest of the group at that point, hefting his pack onto his shoulders and adjusting the straps. When he finished draping a flowing red cloak over the pack, he looked up and said, “Now that’s just the type of information we’re looking for. A room of scrying glasses to view each of the portals from a safe, defensible position. What does everyone else make of all this?”
Darkyr simply began walking toward the main portal, apparently intent on examining Mordaryn’s findings himself.
Mhoram was conversing with Mordaryn about the findings when he suddenly staggered away from the Duke and grabbed at his head, a look of intense concentration on his face.
“I have just been mentally attacked from…the portal area!” Mhoram said.
“There is a strong, focused power there. It is bent upon us. It is growing. I sense it to be an evil will, or wills, but I am not certain. Prepare yourselves for battle!!”
As one, the Portal Warriors made ready to fight. They moved with the easy confidence of men who were accustomed to the preparations of battle — checking armor fittings; adjusting straps; unsheathing blades.
At the time none of them noticed, but this newly formed group of compatriots worked together as if they had been doing battle side-by-side for years. As each one prepared themselves for the unknown as best they could, they thought of the upcoming battle in their own, personal fashion. Here, now, is the battle as it transpired from the two perspectives of Wilgar and Mhoram, who really had fought side-by-side before.
* * *
Mhoram: I looked across the plain as I shouted my warning. I saw nigh on four-hundred orcs pouring out from the citadel and approaching us in a maddened charge. I cast some hasty defense spells and mentally called out to…
*Watch my back! I need a few moments to cast a spell!*
*Are you gonna say “OOPS” this time?*
*Not that easy! We’re going to find whoever is sending them. We’re going to the Source. I only need a minute!*
Wilgar: It never ceases to amaze me how poetic Mhoram’s somantics are while he is casting. Truly an amazing sight to behold. However, so is a virtual sea of enraged, berserk orcs pouring in to attack us. This is going to be a very long minute! While the orcs were still a goodly distance away I called upon Titane, God of War, and excellence in Battle for his blessings. As soon as the first wave of orcs hit, I felt His power within me.
And so it began.
Just then Mhoram spoke to me again,
*Ten more seconds!*
*Sure! Take your time! No big deal!*
Have you ever noticed how time seems to slow down in the middle of battle? Mhoram’s ten seconds cost me dearly. Just as my strength began to ebb away, I felt a tingle and…
…We appeared in the room Mordaryn had found. It was the one with the scrying plates. Looking about the room, I saw several huge orcs. They were standing before plates number seven, three and one. Also at plate number one was a Beast, like the one which had foolishly battled Duke Mordaryn. It was looking into the scrying plate with its back to the rest of the room. I could tell even without using my magic, it was a creature of pure evil. There was a time when I would have called this creature “brother,” but no longer. I heard a soft thud beside me, and turned to see Wilgar slouched on the floor. By the beard of Odin, I had forgotten him! I quickly adjusted his body’s cells, healing his wounds and helped him climb to his feet. We both looked up in time to see the three orcs charging at us!
*I’ve got the two on the right!*
*Right! I’ve got him on the left!*
I took a back to back position with Mhoram and drew my Wand of Fire. As we readied ourselves, an evil growl of a “voice” bellowed above the battle cries of the orcs.
Well, I’ve never appreciated orcs trying to slay me or my friends, so…
*Forgive me for stealing you line, my friend*
“Fireball!” I shouted.
In response to the command word, my Wand spit forth a tiny, pea-sized sphere of flame which shot across the room to my chosen target. With a resounding explosion and a bright flash of reddish-orange light the orc was struck. The force of the blast knocked it backward into one of the mysterious scrying plates. The creature crumpled to the floor, screaming its last breaths in torturous cries of agony. I noticed with interest that the plate was undamaged
“That’s one down” I said aloud to Mhoram.
I’ve always enjoyed a good explosion, and certainly this was no exception. Inside, I smiled as I remembered times long past…
I was snapped put of my reverie by the sounds of my two attackers renewing their efforts against me. They charged. I cast. They both stopped short as a lightening bolt shot out at them, and then forked in two. Being the slow-witted creatures they were, they simply stood there, transfixed by the bolts as they were struck simultaneously. The energies discharged with quite spectacular results. The orcs convulsed violently as the electricity swept through them, burning their tough hides. When the current did finally stop, the two fell in a heap to the floor. Then, I turned my attention toward our final enemy, the Beast standing before the scrying plate. We locked eyes.
*You’re asking me?*
*You’re the Priest of War!*
* Oh, yes. So I am. Well, then… “ATTACK!!” *
With mace drawn and my bloodlust firmly in place, I screamed and attacked!
“To Battle!! To Victory!! AAAHHH!!” Smack! Fling! Thud! “Ouch!”
I pulled myself off of the floor and re-evaluated my strategy. I called upon my lord Titane again. The Beast had an amused look on its face as it braced itself to strike me again. Before it had the chance, however, I threw my mace. It flew across the distance and struck the creature squarely in the chest. The mace, fully backed with the power of Titane slammed the creature into the scrying plate behind it. The Beast crumpled to the floor. I made a mental note that again, the plate was unharmed from the impact.
I watched Wilgar battle the creature with much respect. He is indeed, “The only one you’ll ever need.” However, the beast still lived, and it had Wilgar’s mace!
“My turn,” I said aloud.
Once again I began to cast my magic, but this creature was not as dimwitted the orcs had been. It quickly crouched, and leapt directly at me, foiling my concentration, and my spell!
It caught me high, and we both tumbled to the ground. I suddenly found myself locked in mortal combat with a creature from hell! Its claws rent my flesh. I felt a rush of pain, the likes of which I’d not felt since I was held prisoner in Belial’s realm of Pain.
For the first time in a long while, I actually felt fear. Fear of being helpless at the hands of this vile monster, and slowly sapped of my will to resist it. Fear of being used as a pawn of the Gods. Used as an amusement by my father, Loki. The thoughts of fear, obviously being caused by the creature I fought, began to burn inside me. I began turning the fear into hate. A burning hatred that fueled my strength. With a mighty effort, I pushed up, and heaved the Beast off my person. With but a thought, my sword was in my hand. Seemingly of its own volition, my blade cleaved the creature three times. First it’s right claw, then it’s left, then its head fell upon the floor.
The blood flowed freely from my own wounds. After my recent mental and physical exertion I did not have the capacity to affect my own cells to heal myself as I had done for Wilgar. I, too, fell to the floor in a heap and then…everything…went…black.
“Mhoram!” I screamed.
I saw before me a sight I’d never dreamed I would ever see. The High-Lord Mhoram lying unconscious and bleeding at my feet. I don’t know why, but the sight made me shake a bit. I snapped myself out of it and went to aid my friend.
I said, “Well, it’s a good thing for you that there’s a cleric in the party, Mhoram!”
I began to make a few somantic flourishes as I spoke. The energy of my spell flowed through my fingers and worked their way into Mhoram’s unmoving form. They began their healing work, clotting blood, closing wounds, and granting him strength. My strength. He was much more severely injured then I had originally thought. As he came to, I blacked out.
I awoke with a start, and I realized I was not in the same room anymore.
I said, “Mhoram? Where are you? Mhoram!?”
“Easy, my friend. I’m right here. We’re in the back of the truck. The battle still rages outside. Our party of Portal Warriors is spread out amongst the orcs. My fight with the hell-fiend drained me more then I believed possible! I barely had the strength to teleport us back here and put up some protective wards around us and the truck. I need to rest. Just a few hours or days. The blessings of Freya be with our friends.”
“Shut up and let me sleep.”
To be Continued…(But by whom?)