The Isle of Dread

Billard dropped Kirby in relief. Jungle trees had surrounded them for the past few miles.

Sir Kage had called for a rest even though he didn’t think it wise. It was bad enough that Billard and Denier were not used to traveling long distances all day, but Kirby had slowed them down considerably. His fear that Kirby was going to supply the handicap that would bring about the party’s downfall was continuously growing. But what could he do about it? Sacrifice him for the party by leaving him behind? The only good thing was that the island was surprisingly cool for the summertime, and the cool breeze had allowed them more endurance than nothing but sun beating on your back. No doubt it would help the Kikapas too.

A few minutes later, Kage was telling Kirby a heroic tale of how he faced four black dragons as he explored the depths of a merciless dungeon. “Then I decided the four wyrms would be too easy to kill with my sword, so I turned it and only used the flat of my blade on them! I struck them all down with a single blow, and realizing their deaths had been forestalled by my own mercy, they yielded to me and I was able to subdue them.” “And then what happened?”, asked Kirby.

“I was instantly teleported to a weird city that buys dragons.”, replied age. Kirby fell over laughing.

Billard saw something. Wooden bridges that spanned across some of the trees, about twenty feet off the ground. It looked like someone lived here. Sir Kage wanted to take a closer look at it once he was told, but Greegan said he had the best chance of assessing it without being seen.

After a while, he returned, bringing news that it was more than just two or three bridges. It was an entire community. Each tree held anywhere from one to five decks of various sizes which were linked to the bridges. He had also seen one or two figures walking around up there. The only thing he could say about them was that they looked like they were wearing furs.

This was the best chance to steal food. Kage decided that he, Greegan, and Everett would go and try to find an entrance from the ground. “Wait juz a minute! I ain’t gonna play babysitter!”, said Stalfor. “We’ll be needing someone on the outside incase we need reinforcements. We’ll need an ace up our sleeve incase things get too hot. You’ll be in charge.”, explained Kage. Denier said he could levitate to another part of the treeborne camp and look for food as well. Kage agreed.

Denier climbed over the rope bridge. He immediately heard the rustling of leaves to the left of him. Fearing it was an approaching resident, he quickly made his way to the right. The bridge consisted of two ropes, strung together to make steps every foot or so. One had to watch their step while crossing it. The bridge ended at a tree with climbing steps nailed into it. Denier climbed up it, into a dark wooden room with a human-size bipedal cat in it. Luckily, the fierce looking creature was sleeping in a hammock. “Rakasta”, he whispered, recognizing the feline warrior from a description in a book.

Figuring it was safer to cross the room than wait and see if another was coming, Denier began to slowly creep to the other door.

Greegan grimaced with every jingle of metal made by Kage and Everett’s plate mail made every time they took a step. He kept a full twenty feet ahead of the other two incase he heard something and wondered why they had to come along when he was much more effective alone. Greegan found a long rope that seemed to serve as the entrance. He made it up easily, and quickly became frustrated at waiting for Kage and Everett to make it up.

Greegan heard some fighting and motioned for them to stay there as he went to investigate. The bridge was connected to the a bamboo platform attached to a tree that both served as a ceiling for a room below it and a floor. Tools and boards were scattered across the platform, hinting that the tree home was constantly being renovated. A rope ladder attached to another platform high above that one hung nearby. Greegan poked his head into a hole stood at the base of the bridge and on the roof of the bamboo room. Inside were two juvenile-looking humanoids with cat-like features. They each held a spear and were sparring. Windows on the side of the room provided the only light for the room.

Kage and Everett were ducking as much as they could on the low-brimmed bridge to hide from possible bridge crossers when Greegan motioned for them to come. They slowly made their way across the bridge and peaked in the hole to behold the resident creatures. Kage looked up to see Greegan climbing the nearby rope ladder.

Denier made it across without waking the snoozing rakasta. He was happy to find that the next bridge took him to what seemed to be the kitchen. Clay pots and pans as well as wooden eating utensils lay scattered around the wooden room, lit by two windows. He opened what looked to be a breadbox to find large spiders. The resulting scream woke the rakasta sleeping thirty feet away.

Greegan and the others had wandered into a dark, wooden room that held two hammocks in it. Nearby was a chest.

Greegan checked it for traps. Seeing that there were none, he opened to find, he found some interesting items: a few gems, a hilt less sword that looked like it came from the Kikapa village, and a mirror. The mirror beheld the face of a rakasta and hoped that it was a magic mirror of some kind. Turning around, he saw that it was not magical, but a true reflection. The rakasta made a feline roar, which turned into a hiss, and attacked. Kage brought out is saber just in time to block the cat scratch, nearly cutting the creature’s hand off. Everett sliced into it with his long swords, cutting off his ear and puncturing his lung. The rakasta fell down dead. But they knew they were in trouble. The roar it made would not go unnoticed.

Denier thought to himself that he should have figured these creatures didn’t eat the same as people did. The tarantula-sized spiders had immediately jumped on him when Denier had opened the box, scaring him. He brushed them off, but knew his cry might have alerted some of the rakastas.

This was confirmed when one appeared in the doorway. Wearing an iron claw over it’s natural one, the now awake rakasta charged Denier. Denier loosed a spell on the creature, crying “Stop my friend!”. The barbaric feline stopped on a dime, not understanding what the mage had said, but now feeling he had to protect the man from those who would do him harm. Denier beckoned the rakasta to follow him.

The way they had come was now being filled with advancing rakastas. Kage ordered to flee the other way. The next bridge they took led them into a straw room with nothing in it but two spears resting against the walls and no other alternate exit in it. “A dead end!”, cried Kage. Greegan looked out the window.

The rakastas ran into the room, surprised to not see anyone. The lead one ran to the window and then saw that the two intruders had been able to grab unto a rope bridge that was hanging just over the window and was now escaping by hanging onto the rope bridge “steps” as jungle gym bars and climbing away. “Get the bows!”, ordered the lead in it’s own language, “I’ll follow them!”. The others left and the lead began to climb out the window when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back.

Greegan pulled the dirk from the feline’s back and threw his body to the floor. He had been hiding in the shadows of the room waiting for the right time to strike. He looked out the window to see Kage and Everett going very slowly across the bottom of the rope bridge. “Move your ass!”, he shouted.

Kage swore he’d kill him for that. Climbing across the bottom of a rope bridge some forty feet off the ground with a suit of plate mail weighing you down was not the easiest thing to do. He thought of pulling himself up to get on top of it, but the weak bridge didn’t offer the support for such a maneuver.

Just then, a rakasta with a dirk, swinging on a rope from a higher level, dropped from above, grabbing unto the bottom of the bridge just in time. The resulting tug nearly shook Kage and Everett off. The rakasta seemed to have no trouble as she climbed right up to Kage and grabbed the dirk from her maw, still holding onto the bridge with one hand.

The last thing Kage wanted to do was to let go of the rope bridge, but he was forced to hold his breath and release one hand to get out his saber in defense. The rakasta attacked with quick jabs. Kage did all he could to hold on and defend against the rakasta’s attacks, but they were two quick. The dirk slid off his plate mail first but then scratched his arm and then his head. Kage closed his eyes and sucked in the pain to keep his grasp. He felt as if his arm would come out of its socket. Everett wished there was some way he could get in and help, but the bridge only allowed space for one on one. The second the rakasta let up on her attacks, Kage brought his sword in. The rakasta brought her sword in defense, but instead of the saber going for her body, it cut the rope step she was holding onto. She lost he grasp and fell. Feeling he couldn’t hold for a second longer, Kage let his saber drop and grabbed on with his other hand and let out a sigh of relief.

An arrow bounced off his plate mail.

“Crap.”, he murmured. He continued as arrows began to assault him and Everett. Everett wished he had been in front since he would be could be going faster. Greegan tried to find out where the archers were aiming from when he caught a figure. “Look!!!”, he shouted to Kage and Everett, immediately ducking to the ground as an arrow flew into the window.

They looked up to see Denier and a rakasta, running away from the same straw room they were trying to climb to. Everett shouted for Denier, who was making great distance away from them across a bridge in a diagonal direction from them, but the shouts went unheard. “DENIER!!!”, cried Kage with all his heart and soul.

Denier stopped and turned towards where he heard his name. Rakastas were following them so he frantically searched for the source and spotted Kage and Everett dangling from a rope bridge. “They’re here!”, warned the charmed rakasta, spotting three making their way across the bridge. “I have to hear what the others have to say!”, Denier replied, drowning out Kage’s shouts.

“WHAT?!?!?”, he shouted back. “TAKE OUT THOSE ARCHERS!!!”, Kage repeated as arrows continued to fly past him and Everett and bounce off their armor.

“Traitor!”, shouted the oncoming rakasta in its hissing language. “Grimhollow, How is it possible?!?”, asked the one behind him. Denier’s defender came at them, parrying sword with his metal claw and scratching the lead attacker in the face, blinding him in one eye.

“WHAT?!?!?”, Denier repeated. “TAKE OUT THOSE ARCH-ers!!!”, Kage lost his voice as he tried to get his message across as hard as he could. Denier looked up to see rakastas shooting arrows from a platform above him.

The second attacker’s spear buried itself into Grimhollow’s pelvis. The blinded rakasta then threw his weight into the Denier’s guardian and threw him off the bridge. The third looked over to where the intruder was. Denier was already climbing a rope ladder from the adjacent platform.

“Phew!”, breathed Kage, “It’s a good thing they stopped.”, referring to the arrows that had ceased to come at them.

“Not good.”, replied Everett, “Denier couldn’t have made it to them that quickly.” They continued across the long bridge as fast as they could.

When Greegan saw that the arrows had stopped flying, he shouted “Hold on tightly!”, and jumped onto the bottom of the rope bridge. Using the momentum of the jump, he threw his body in an upward direction and grabbed the rope side rail with his legs. He climbed to the top and jumped over the steps Kage and Everett were using as handrails and made it to the destination straw room long before they did.

The rope ladder went forward as much as it did up, making it a bridge as much as it was a ladder. Denier had to crawl up it to get to a next platform. Above him was another platform made of boards arranged and nailed together in a grid-like fashion, which four archers were using as their floor. Denier could see that they had turned around and were now firing their arrows in the opposite direction from before. The square holes made by the grid were perfect. He cast a quick spell that shot three missiles of energy through three individual holes, hitting three of the four archers. They fell back, stunned and slightly injured, but were otherwise fine. Grabbing their attention, he tried to make his way back down the ladder, only to find three rakastas ready for him, the backmost one keeping a paw over what seemed to be an eye gouge. He turned back to find the archers were already on the other side of the ladder. Denier could now see where he had made a tactical error. He grabbed on tight to the rope ladder and pulled out his enchanted dagger from his sheath. The blade of the weapon shimmered black and was much sharper than any normal knife. It had been a present from his study master. Denier filled his mind with hatred, knowing that it would enhance the enchantment on his dagger more. Denier kept to the middle of the ladder as the rakastas advanced towards him. He hoped Kage and Everett would show up.

“Damn the gods! Bless the gods!”, cried Billard.

“I’m going in. I’ll meet ye back behind those trees over there.”, ordered Stalfor.

One of the rakasta grabbed Denier’s arm. Denier cut both sides of the rope bridge with one swipe each. He and two rakasta fell. Another one, one of the archers, tried to jump back onto the platform his friends stood on but missed it by inches. Denier closed his eyes and began casting a spell, hoping he could finish before the ground rushed up to meet him. A giant web burst out from his hands, shooting out to all sides. The web ends caught onto nearby branches and broke Denier’s fall just a few feet from the ground. Two rakastas hit it as well, getting as stuck to the web’s sticky strands as Denier was.

The third rakasta had jumped out of range of the web and landed upon the tree’s root on his head, causing parts of brain to get stuck to the web as well.

The blinded rakasta dropped his sword and crossed his arms over his chest in surrender. Greegan grabbed him, put his dirk to the feline’s neck and held him in front of the three rakastas on the other side of the broken bridge who were aiming their bows at the adventurers. “Drop them or he dies!”, shouted Greegan, pointing to the bows and then to the floor.

The archers looked at each other. One threw down his bow and the others followed. “Now kick them over!”, he said, making the appropriate gestures. They obeyed.

Kage and Everett looked down to where Denier had fallen. Looking down, they saw Stalfor chopping his axe into two rakastas that were stuck in what looked to be a giant spider web. Only then did Stalfor chop Denier free. Kage and Everett shouted for their attention and then jumped down as well. Greegan kept his eyes on the other rakasta until the others made it down. He then stabbed the rakasta in the throat, pushed him towards the others, and jumped.

“Are the others okay?”, asked Kage, a rakasta sword from one of the archers’ side belt.

“No.”, Stalfor replied simply as he freed Greegan, who likewise grabbed both a sword and a bow.

The party quickly made their way to where Stalfor led them.

By on May 30, 2001
Last modified on June 9, 2016

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