Dawn of the Unflankables

Chapter 33: Final Exam

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After a good night’s rest, the Unflankables are invited in for breakfast by their host, Gord. Pineroot isn’t feeling well and stays in bed. They dine on some kind of northern ham and Gord invites them to another one of his test chambers. The room they enter is small and occupied by a sole device in the shape of a bull. Gord proudly introduces it as The Mechanical Gorgon. The idea, he explains, is to stay on as long as possible.

The heroes suggest that Ryndir go first, and so he does. One by one, the heroes mount the gorgon. Each stays on for close to half a minute. They try once again, each beating their previous time. Gord approves of their performance and they are led back out into the foyer. Smugs meets up with them and Gord ushers them into a circular chamber divided into six triangular tiles. He shuts them in and the chamber begins to rise. Walls within the chamber rise up between the tiles, separating each of the heroes from one another.

As the Unflankables stand in their wedge-shaped rooms, the voice of Gord washes over them. He explains that behind each of them is a lever that can rotate the chamber left or right. Pushing the lever down will spin the chamber so that the rooms end in a random location. The heroes don’t truly understand until the walls in front of them descend and each of them is staring into a larger chamber. Separating them from their respective chambers, are various magical hazes. A bluish haze for Azaghal, a reddish one for Ryndir, a glowing field of light for Darksex, and a wall of soft flame for Ulfgar. Gord tells them that they must use their wits and strategy to defeat the challenges in each chamber.

Ulfgar steps cautiously through the fiery barrier before him into a dirty cavern. The flames surround and stay with him as he passes through it, yet he is not burnt. He is, however, bombarded by a horrific smell. His dwarven constitution bracing him against the stench, he immediately recognizes it as that of a troglodyte. A quick look around the room and he spots the large reptilian creature behind one of the stalagmites. He remembers that the beast detests bright light as much as everyone else detests its repulsive smell. A moment later, Ulfgar has cast a spell of light upon another nearby stalagmite, brightening the entire room and driving the troglodyte further into the corner.

Meanwhile, Ryndir steps cautiously through the red haze into his room, which is filled with a crop of corn. The elf notices that he feels severely drained after walking through the haze and shuffles up to the corn for a bite. He shucks one of the ears and takes a few bites. It is rather bland and not at all filling, but he finishes it anyway. It is then that he spots a scarecrow hung amidst the crop. He ambles up to it and tells it that the corn isn’t great and that it probably isn’t necessary since there aren’t any crows. To his surprise, the scarecrow slashes at him with its sharp fingers. Ryndir performs an athletic roll to elude the straw menace, and draws an arrow. As he pulls the arrow back, he feels the magical lethargy consume him, and he fires at his target weakly. The arrow hits its mark, but the scarecrow is now on a rampage and shuffles its way towards the sleepy rogue.

In his chamber, Darksex steps through the wall of light into a boring stone room. He notices he is now glowing and that he is not alone. On the other side of the room, is a large yellow ochre jelly. The ooze lurches its way towards Darksex slowly, and the dwarf almost feels sorry for it. To be safe, he spider-climbs to the ceiling and attempts to reach out to the creature with his mind. He receives no response and casts a magical chill upon it. The blob shudders and slides up the wall and onto the ceiling, to join Darksex. Darksex doesn’t approve of this and blasts the ooze back down with his eldritch magic. However, the force of the blow splits the jelly in half, and Darksex finds himself in the company of two blobs instead of one.

Azaghal steps through the blue haze and immediately feels invigorated. He does a quick scan of the mossy cavern before him and spots a large insect with feathery antennae chewing on a rusty sword. Upon spotting Azaghal, the insect scuttles up to him and nips at his leg. The tiefling hops up onto a nearby rock, removing the Wickhaven guard armor, as well as his robes. Standing nude before the great crusty creature, Azaghal raises his arms in a peaceful gesture. The bug loses interest in Azaghal completely and begins to feast on the discarded armor. The armor begins to rust almost immediately and Azaghal realizes that the insect is a Rust Monster. He draws the monster’s attention back to him by punching it in the head a few times. He also stabs it with his scimitar, but like the armor, the weapon quickly begins to rust.

The heroes hear the sound of stone on stone, and behind them the center chamber begins to rotate. As the chamber turns, the hazes move with it, and soon Smugs steps through a shimmering haze to join Ulfgar in the putrid troglodyte cavern. Smugs explains that there was a burning man in his chamber and he wasn’t keen on his odds. Ulfgar continues to bombard the troglodyte with bouts of sacred flame and tells Smugs that he’s got things handled. Smugs is alright with that since he isn’t handling the stench as well as his dwarven companion. He steps into the rotating chamber and it spins once again.

Back in the cornfield room, Ryndir dodges the scarecrow’s nasty swipes. The scarecrow’s hollow eyes meet with Ryndir’s and two red pinpoints begin to glow in the straw man’s gaze. An unnatural terror washes over Ryndir and he turns and dashes back into the rotating chamber, where the blue haze has been replaced with the wall of soft flame. Ryndir’s energy returns to him, but the terror remains. Frantically, he fires an arrow at the oncoming horror. As the arrow passes through the wall of flame, it ignites; and a moment later the scarecrow bursts into flame as the arrow buries itself in its straw-filled body. Ryndir scrabbles backward away from the nightmarish inferno making its way towards him. He grabs the lever and spins into the chamber next to him, this one a dark cavern filled with webs.

Azaghal continues pummeling until he’s pummeled the rust monster into oblivion. He is bummed about his scimitar and armor and begins to search the room for anything of value. Smugs has rotated into the chamber with Darksex and the twin jellies. Smugs tells Darksex about the burning man, and Darksex replies by advising not to slice the ooze since he doesn’t feel like dealing with any more of them. Smugs doesn’t listen and soon there are three jellies, two smaller than the other. Ulfgar has finally fried the troglodyte, adding the smell of scorched scales to the essence of trog. His work done, he strolls back into the rotation chamber and pulls the lever.

Ryndir catches his breath and peers out into the dark cavern in front of him. A dark shape scuttles from web to web between the rocks. Ryndir has no time to think about this, however, for the chambers rotate again and he finds himself back in the cornfield, face to face with the burning scarecrow. The straw-filled horror descends upon Ryndir, entering the rotation chamber and slashing at the poor, terrified elf.

The turn of the chambers is kinder to Ulfgar and he strolls out to meet Darksex and Smugs. Smugs has received some acid burns, but Darksex has made quick work of the largest of the jellies. After liquifying the rest of them, Darksex and Smugs decide to join Ulfgar in the rotation chamber and they give the lever a pull. By chance, they find themselves looking out at the smelly troglodyte cavern.

Unfortunately, this rotation has moved Ryndir back to the cave of webs. Still locked in combat with the blazing scarecrow, Ryndir spots a rotund insectoid step from behind a rock. The creature, an ettercap, shoots a spray of web, and elf and scarecrow suddenly find themselves entwined in the sticky trap.

Azaghal has also joined in on the rotating. He has discovered the burning man that Smugs had fought. The man, an Azer, is very much alive, dressed in dark armor and wielding an iron warhammer. The warhammer is on fire, very much like the man’s head. Blows are exchanged and soon Azaghal is joined by Ulfgar, Darksex, and Smugs. Ulfgar joins in on the thwomping, but as Darksex hops out of the rotation chamber, he gives Smugs a push. Smugs stumbles into the lever and disappears as he rotates away. He is replaced by Ryndir, webbed to the floor and trying desperately to get away from the terrifying scarecrow.

Between Darksex, Ulfgar, and Azaghal, the Azer doesn’t stand a chance. Ulfgar deals the final blow, knocking the wind out of the Azer and following up with a skull-crushing strike to the head. The fire on the warhammer goes out and Ulfgar snatches it up. The three heroes turn back to the rotating chamber where, at this point, the scarecrow is nothing more than a burning bag of straw. They watch as Ryndir, fueled by fear and adrenaline, stabs the bag over and over again with his dagger.

Darksex takes pity, freeing the elf from the web and healing a couple of the gashes. Ulfgar pulls the lever and the four of them rotate once again. Ryndir moans as the chamber stops at the cornfield, though the rest of the heroes just stare out into the silent room. Ulfgar shouts at Smugs to pull the lever to the right. Smugs complies, and the Unflankables tumble out, through the soft flames, into the web-filled cave.

The resident ettercap is hopelessly outnumbered and easily dealt with. Ulfgar does away with it’s web with some sacred flame. Ryndir, still coursing with adrenaline, launches an arrow covered with soft flame. The arrow pierces one of the ettercap’s eyes and it screeches in pain. It doesn’t suffer for very much longer as Darksex hurls an eldritch blast at it, followed by a burning fist from Azaghal, punching the remaining life, and web, out of it.

Gord’s voice is heard once again, showering them with compliments and ushering them back into the rotation chamber. Gord offers them lunch, a welcome meal after this dizzying, and perhaps nightmarish, test.

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