The young boy crept slowly onward. After hours of cringing in the dark he had finally made up his mind to continue on.

Turning back was not an option, for the last of the rope had been lost when Gwain had been shredded by the displacer beast and there was no other way of crossing the gorge. The party had been fourteen strong when they had set off for an extensive cave system within Deep Groan Chasm. The mission had not started well. On the first day, a chance rock had fallen from the cliff wall and hit one of the alchemist's very secret jars. The resulting explosion killed the alchemist and two others. Continued bad luck perused them into the caves as the rope they were using to cross a gorge snapped, killing two and stranding three more on the other side. The displacer beast had attacked soon after, killing the party’s mage before anyone could react. Five more died in the ensuing battle. This left only the young boy, who had been rescued from an attack on his parents’ camp, and the wounded cleric to face off with the lich. The cleric sacrificed himself to save the boy, using all of his life force in one last spell. As the spell took effect the cleric transformed into a beam of light that shot forth and surrounded the lich with a bright halo of white hot, holy fire. With one final blinding flash of radiance, the boy was alone.

Others may have given up then. Others may have been lost in the caves forever trying to find their way back. But not the boy. He continued on determined to finish the mission his saviors had thought so important. He did not think he would make it out of these caverns alive, but if he did not at least attempt this task he would die for nothing. He had been raised better than to let himself die for nothing. He would forever strive for life. But little did he know that up ahead something had heard his approach and was already crouched, waiting to strike.

He moved forward cautiously, his eyes straining against the darkness, trying to pick shapes out of the shadows. He could hear something breathing in the cave with him, but the noise bounced off of the walls seeming to come from half a dozen different directions at once. He tried as best he could to stifle the sounds of his own approach, in the hopes of slipping by whatever lay ahead. The sound of his own heart beating was thunderous in his own ears-- he half expected to hear it echoing throughout the cavern.

A rustling sound to his side brought him spinning around, just in time to see a kobold leap from the shadows, its teeth bared in a feral snarl. The boy attempted to dodge, but a fist like a mace slammed into him and sent him to the floor. The beast leaped forward onto its prey, bringing its face just inches from the boy’s. Its fetid, rotten breath seemed to fill the entire cave, making it difficult to breathe.

The kobold leaned toward the boy’s throat and opened its jaws, preparing for the killing bite. In desperation, the boy flailed his arms about, attempting to dislodge the beast. The kobold made a strange barking noise, a sort of bestial chuckle as its prey desperately put up a pitiful defense. It grabbed the boy’s arms and pinned them against the ground. The boy struggled, but to no avail-- the kobold's grip held him fast.

Fear gripped the boy and held him paralyzed against the stone floor. The scent from the kobold was overpowering now, filling not only his nose but his mind as well, blocking out all rational thought. Saliva dripped from the kobold's gaping jaws and onto the boy’s throat, further heightening his terror.

As the kobold's teeth touched his neck, the boy gave a final scream of defiance. In that moment, he felt something inside his mind burst open, an intense pressure which seemed to fill his entire being and explode from him. The air in front of him seemed to ripple, like heat waves rising off desert sands. The kobold's eyes opened wide for an instant, and then disappeared as its head was torn from its body by some invisible force. Its body was then thrown across the cave with tremendous force. It slammed into the wall and sank several inches into the rock. Vile fluids leaked down from the pulped remains of its shattered body, pattering against the cavern floor.

Clap, clap, clap, clap. The source of the clapping moved forward into the pale light. It was a strange being of undetermined race, who looked so very old that it could have been present at the making of the world. It stopped clapping then and put its arms back at its sides. The boy could see that the odd creature was very tall and proud of stature. The subject of the boy’s scrutiny spoke then, its soft, gravely voice carrying to the boy's ears easily.

"I have waited long for one such as you. Though you have no knowledge of your more arcane abilities, you are brave of heart and strong in mind. Elmin will teach you how to use your great potential. Learn from him well for he has much to teach. As for my contribution to your training, take this sack. Guard it well, for it will provide for you when you are it need. It contains many items and part of your future. It will serve you well for as long as it is yours. Your time here is up. Do Not Attempt To Return!" The last command rang hollowly in the boy's ears as he slumped forward into a deep, spell induced sleep.

Continued