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Heroes of Mystara - Chapter 4by Jesper Andersen
Beware the dog!
Loshdain 20th, Klarmont, the Year 1000 after Crowning
'Ouch! By all the blasted goblins!' It was the third time in one afternoon that Whitemane had tripped over the bending root of a tree underneath the snow. 'Does summer never come in this cursed country?' he asked angrily as he wiped the snow off his clothes. 'I like it', Wulfgar said as he gave the dwarf a hand up. 'It reminds me of back home'. Behind them Thaminor was hard pressed to conceal a broad grin at the Whitemane's clumsiness.
Ikaros looked back over his shoulder and smiled. He didn't take offence at what Whitemane said about his native land. It was understandable given the fate his people had suffered at the hands of Glantrians two centuries before. Still, it was a long time to carry a grudge but the memory of dwarves is like a rock in a river. It only changes slowly.
In the front, Petja was scouting the way to Balagarn's tower. They had been travelling for four days since Rymskigrad through muddy valleys and snow-covered mountains. Last night they had stayed at a little village in the valley below them and the local Boldavians had told them that Balagarn's tower was at the end of a gorge up the mountainside. They had also warned the party. Apparently, Balagarn lived alone except for a few servants and kept to himself. But two nights before they had seen strange flashes of light and heard howling, thunderous noises from the mountain. Nobody had dared to investigate.
Petja was excited to be in the lead. This was very different from committing puny crimes for the guild around the docks in Specularum. He was finally out there - experiencing adventures! If he hadn't been daydreaming, Petja would probably have been more alert and noticed the dark shadows skulking alongside them behind big boulders of rock. They had reached the entrance of the gorge with steep cliffs on either side and started moving into the narrow passage when a shout of warning from Wulfgar got Petja's attention. A second before it was too late, he ducked out of the way of a huge beast-like shape that jumped down from the top of a nearby rock. Whirling around on the ground, a dagger in his hand, he saw it was an enormous black dog with long, unkempt fur and terrible eyes that glowed with an infernal red light in the dimness of the gorge.
Thaminor and Wulfgar had both spotted the huge dog just before it jumped Petja and reached for their bows and arrows. As Ikaros prepared to release a spell and Whitemane moved forward with his trusted battleaxe in hand, another black dog appeared on their left flank. It snarled fiendishly and then breathed a long cone of flames at Whitemane, who immediately dove for cover.
'Whoa!! Good doggy!' Petja said as he fought to get back on his feet. A low, growling sound from the creature's throat erupted in a roar as it breathed flames and death at the hapless thief. A second later it reared back with one of Thaminor's arrows imbedded in its neck. 'Petja, hold on!' Wulfgar shouted as he charged to the rescue with his greataxe.
Whitemane quickly got to his feet and as the hellish hound jumped down to bite him he hit it squarely in the face with his axe. 'Take that! You fiendish cur!' he shouted. Ikaros completed his incantations and let fly an arrow of magical energy at Whitemane's opponent, which roared in pain from the blows.
Calm and cool, Thaminor knocked another arrow, took aim and let it fly with deadly precision at the dog facing Whitemane and Ikaros. It hit it in the side of the chest but the beast still lived...
'Cripes!' Petja thought as he continued to dodge the snapping bites of his adversary. 'Talk about bad breath!'
At the same moment Wulfgar came running over rocks and stones and leapt from a boulder towards the beast. 'Odin!' he shouted as he dove through the air with his great Northman's axe gripped in both hands above his head. When he came down on the hound, he struck it in the spine behind the head and it cringed away in pain.
In a matter of moments it was all over. The handiwork of Wulfgar's and Whitemane's axes quickly finished the beasts off, while they only inflicted minor wounds on the warriors with their claws and fangs.
As they stood around the carcases, catching their breath and putting bandages on the wounds, Petja spoke: 'I have never seen guard dogs that could breathe fire like that. He could have put a sign up, if he didn't want guests!' 'Those were no ordinary dogs, my friend' Ikaros said. 'Not even by Glantrian wizardly standards. If I am not very much mistaken, these were Hell Hounds - evil planar monsters brought to our world for some dark purpose'. 'Really?' Whitemane said. 'Well, remind me to repay dear Balagarn for his hospitality!' he added while he felt the edge of Skullsplitter, his trusted axe.
They gathered up their packs and continued warily into the gorge.
Next time: Too late