(image by Alan Pollack, from The Eternal Boundary)
Sheen held one of the red glass beads up towards the portal and it flared to life again. “So, any volunteers to find out whether this leads into a fiery pit?” Haden reached out a hand a bit tentatively. When his fingers passed through the plane of the portal there was a terrible sucking noise and he was yanked off his feet, vanishing in a flare of light. The portal itself began to waver and flicker.
Talan’s eyes widened. “As much as Haden . . . we have to go after him!”
Joris nodded and dove through the rapidly dwindling portal, vanishing in a roar of flames. Sheen sighed. “I don’t see any other way forward, here.”
“Ladies first,” Talan said. Sheen took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and held her nose as though preparing to dive into water. Then she jumped.
“Good luck,” Rindo said as Talan followed, the portal closing on his heels.
The four adventurers landed in a heap on a wide flagstone terrace. “Well, that could have been worse,” Sheen commented, disentangling herself from Joris and looking around. They stood at the base of a cliff. Above them, a narrow staircase climbed along the cliff, vanishing into the heights. Beyond the edge of the terrace, a sea of eternal fire churned.
“Not exactly your island vacation paradise, is it?” Haden asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s a little more tropical than I like,” Sheen replied. “Enough messing around, let’s go find Toranna.”
“Not so fast, guys,” Talan said, indicating the five humans gathered around the foot of the staircase, watching them. They were armed and armored, and two of them were dressed as priests in long robes over their armor.
“Drop your weapons!”
“Oh, look, hostile natives,” Haden said. He did not appear impressed by the threat, even though the humans outnumbered them.
“I’m not sure I like your tone of voice,” Talan said. Sheen glanced over at the half-elf, who was gripping his sword and dagger tightly.
“I don’t think we’ll be dropping any weapons today, thank you,” she said.
“I don’t suppose any of you would like to simplify things and tell us where Toranna is?” Talan asked.
“She awaits the judgment of the Great Eye!”
Sheen rolled her eyes irritably and concentrated, a small, curved plane of force taking form in front of her. It hung in the air, glowing slightly. Haden drew his rapier with a silken noise.
“Here stand some angry threatening berks
shouting themselves hoarse and blue.
Well, let’s give them ‘em a side of the works
to go along with their barbeque,”
He declaimed. Talen, Sheen, and Joris all winced and glared at him. He shrugged. “Well, they can’t all be winners. Anything better would be wasted on these idiots, anyway.” The five men charged.