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Tuesday, 1st October, 2002, 10:18 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Sniktch's Story Hour - City of the Spider Queen (Updated 04/25)
How to even start? My gaming group and I began to explore The City of the Spider Queen this weekend and had a blast, so I thought I would write it up and share our experiences. I’d like to eventually go back to the beginning so I can introduce the characters and their stories, and how they came to be at this place and time, starting their long, dangerous trek into the Underdark. Maybe I will soon, but I’d rather write this down while it is fresh in my mind. BTW, my game is not set in Faerun – we just didn’t let it stop us.
Without further preamble, the characters at the start of our journey:
Welby Hilltopple – Male Halfling Barbarian4/Rogue3/Shadowdancer3
Welby is a fierce warrior of the Panther clan of halflings, a feral tribe that lives in the heavily overgrown Tangles. When the Tangles were overrun by lizardfolk warriors led by a brutal half-dragon, the little folk of the wood scattered far and wide to avoid destruction. Welby Hilltopple went north with his elderly grandmother, separated from the rest of his people. His grandmother did not survive the cold winter, and the lone halfling continued until he reached Travensburg, where he fell in with his current companions. Withdrawn and soft-spoken, Welby, despite his small stature, presents a grim and imposing figure with his penetrating stare and wild looks. He typically dresses in a motley array of furs, skins, and feathers, and he has not sported a single hair on his head since he was kissed by a Vargouille in the ruins outside of Travensburg.
Stumpwater Jack – Male Dwarf Fighter2/Cleric of Clangeddin Silverbeard5/Templar3
Jack is a grim, dour, and unfriendly dwarf, even beyond those typical of his clan. He hails from the cursed mines of Karaz-a-Garodok, and journeyed to Travensburg with his life-long friend Eli to search for a way to break the curse on his homeland in the old dwarven ruins found near that town. Unfortunately, no remedy was found and Eli perished in the ancient mines, and Jack has grown increasingly unpleasant since that moment. It is doubtful his companions would tolerate him were it not for the skill with which he wields his flashing axe. A great enmity exists between Jack and Artimas, and to the others it seems only a matter of time before the two come to blows.
Artimas Sendant – Male Human Cleric4 of Arawn/Wizard(Necromancer)5/Master of Shrouds1
A self-proclaimed scholar and archaeologist who journeyed to Travensburg to study the nearby ruins, Artimas fell in with the party and joined them on their travels perhaps before they realized his true nature. He is a congenial and friendly person, and it is doubtful any conflict would exist if not for his true vocation. Although not an evil man, Artimas is obsessed with death and is a practitioner of the black arts and a follower of Arawn Lord of Death. Although he tries to use his abilities for only good purpose, constant exposure to death and negative energy has had a slowly damning effect upon his soul. Artimas appears to be a bespectacled, scholarly old gentleman with flowing white hair and moustache, and most never guess that he has not yet seen thirty years.
Quinn – Female Dwarf Cleric of Dumathoin10
Quinn is nearly the opposite of Jack in demeanor. She is quiet and compassionate and constantly looking out for the well-being of her friends and companions. She and Grick were both trained at the great fortress-monastery of Mann to the east. She was sent west to search for clues and signs of the great evil rumored to be growing in the lands and was led to the other companions by her dreams. She has proved to be an invaluable ally and it is doubtful any of our heroes would have survived this long without her. She is also a voice of reason and compromise in a diverse party, and her words of wisdom have prevented violence within the group several times.
Grick – Half-orc Monk7/Drunken Master3
A hulking brute with a heart of gold, Grick is Quinn’s lifelong friend and bodyguard. He was conceived to two loving parents, his father a once orc warlord who had long ago been converted to the teachings of the monks of Mann. He entered the monastery for training at the age of 5. Often bullied by other students due to his lack of wits and bestial appearance, he was befriended by the kind dwarf Quinn and became her constant companion. Shortly after joining the rest of the companions, Grick discovered a new mentor and his greatest weakness: alcohol. Taken under the wing of the great drunk fighter Maximillian Schent, he realized his great love of drink and natural orcish berserker traits. Quinn worries about her old friend now, watching him plunge daily into deeper depths of inebriation while slowly abandoning all his life’s training and discipline, and hopes that a long absence from civilization and bars and taverns will help Grick to find his focus once more.
Malobar – Male Elf Rogue7/Dungeon Delver3
A newcomer to the group. Malobar is an expert locksmith and trapfinder who has been employed as head of security by Lord Bryson for several years now. He is also an avid explorer and takes long vacations from the city to explore the ruins dotting the surrounding countryside. Lord Bryson sent him to find a group of adventurers to investigate the recent drow raids and lead them to the Dorien Crypts. He found our intrepid band just a couple of days away in the small town of Three Fords and convinced them to accept the mission.
I will have the details of our session as soon as I finish editing them.
Last edited by Sniktch; Sunday, 25th April, 2004 at 06:26 PM.
Tuesday, 1st October, 2002, 10:22 PM #2
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Looks interesting; I have to admit I wasn't looking for a new story hour (I'm already behind on the ten or so that I read), but I was curious about CotSQ and I liked the character mini-bios. Good luck on telling your story; I'm sure you'll find an appreciative audience here.
Tuesday, 1st October, 2002, 11:36 PM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
The meeting with Lord Bryson
Artimas awoke with a faintly throbbing headache. Good lord, was he hung over? He almost never drank anything stronger than herbal tea, he couldn’t imagine why he felt so bad now. Oh yes, of course, the wine. They had found that bottle of wine, almost 500 years old, and he had been unable to resist. Well, certainly the others felt worse than he.
He rose slowly from bed, glancing at the open spellbook on the small desk. It would be no use to try to study now, he would have to wait until his mind cleared a little. Stumbling toward the chair, he grabbed his long robe and began to pull it on. At least he had had the sense to undress before collapsing last night. The robes reeked faintly of wine and sweat, but his clean clothes were in the wagon. He could wait to change. He ran his hands twice through his hair, sweeping it back from his eyes, placed his spectacles on the bridge of his nose, and exited the small room. The smell of eggs and ham wafted through the floorboards, making him slightly ill. He caught his breath and turned the small ring on his right index finger. Ah, well, at least he did not have to try to eat, the magic of the ring saved him that indignity.
“Ah, you are awake at last, and the first too. I was growing worried – we need to depart soon.” Startled, Artimas turned and beheld a slender figure rising from a chair in the hallway. A sullen elf with cropped black hair wearing non-descript leathers stepped forward, speaking to him. “The horses have been ready for an hour.”
“Horses? Depart? What are you talking about?” Artimas had a vague memory of the elf joining their revel last night, of a discussion, an agreement, but he could not remember now.
“We spoke of this last night, don’t you remember? Were you really so drunk that you don’t remember?” A slight sneer as the elf spoke. He was obviously trying to hide his distaste. “You agreed to come with me to meet Lord Bryson and speak of the drow activity on his lands.”
Behind the elf, a small bald figure suddenly emerged from the shadows, startling them both. Welby slipped around the elf and stepped close to Artimas, whispering, “It’s true. Malobar works for Bryson. He asked us to come. We agreed. I will go. The others sleep still. I will wake them.” Turning, the halfling stepped back into the shadows and disappeared.
Artimas turned back to the elf, Malobar. “It does seem we have an arrangement. Come downstairs with me and I will buy you breakfast while we wait for the others. They probably won’t be long, except for Grick.”
It would be a little over an hour before they set out, Artimas being correct about the time needed to rouse the sleeping half-orc. Before they left, he was re-acquainted with the discussion of the night before. Drow had surfaced and made a couple of raids against the farming community surrounding the Broken Hills. This was the first sighting of dark elves in this area for over a hundred years, and the lord of the barony was understandably concerned. He wanted a group of seasoned adventurers to try to track the drow back to their lair and discover what had roused them.
The trip back to Lord Bryson’s plantation was pleasant and uneventful. The long winter had released at last the land from her grip, and the land was thick with the first lush carpet of spring. Artimas let the horses run at their own pace, pulling the wagon along behind them, enjoying the cool air as it tickled his cheeks and tugged at his whiskers. Soon enough the journey ended and they stood before the beautiful stone manor house. Malobar knocked at the door and they were greeted by Lord Bryson himself, a huge bear of a man with curly black hair whose eyes lit at the sight of the solemn elf before him. “Greetings, Malobar! It is good fortune that you were able to return so quickly, for the drow have not been silent this past week. Indeed, there was a raid just two nights ago, and I would have them ended. But we will not discuss this here. Come!” He gestured for them to follow. “Let us go the parlor, and there speak of the task at hand in comfort, at least.”
Following the great lord as he strode away, they soon came to a pleasant room with great glass windows facing the northern hills and great cushioned couches turned to face outside. Lord Bryson waited for them to be comfortable and for introductions to be made before speaking. “I am sure Malobar has explained the reason I have sent for you – “
The harsh tones of Stumpwater Jack cut him off, drawing a vicious glare from the elf. “Aye, he did. Said you got some black weeds that need pulling! Just point us the way and we’ll take care of it.” Jack patted the long oaken handle of his axe affectionately. “I’m not much fer talking about it, and me axe is anxious to get to work.”
Malobar started to respond but Lord Bryson cut him off with a wave and a shrug. “Yes, very well then. My scouts have traced the raiders back to an ancient burial site in the Broken Hills known as the Dorien Crypts. These have been long rumored to be haunted, but I have never had trouble from that direction before and thus saw little point in investigating, so I know little about them. There must be an entrance to the Underdark, though, hidden under the hill, that the raiders are using to gain access to the lands. The task I would have you perform is simple – track the raiders back to their home and make sure that my people never face this danger again.”
“And what incentive would we have to carry out your wishes?” asked Artimas.
Malobar whirled upon him, “You dare address Lord Bryson in such – “
Lord Bryson cut him off, “Now, Malobar, I do not blame their asking, and was prepared for it. I am ready to pay you five thousand gold nobles to accept this task, and I am also willing to equip you well from the library of clerical scrolls we keep in the manor chapel.”
Artimas turned and saw the others nodding. It was a fair offer. He turned back to Lord Bryson. “Agreed. If you will supply us with a map or directions to the crypt, we will depart in the morning.”
“I will do slightly better than that, Artimas, I will send Malobar with you. Malobar, you must show these bold heroes to the crypts, and stay with them and help them in any way you can.”
Malobar nodded, “As you wish, my lord.”
That night the companions talked long into the night, unable to sleep, facing the old familiar butterflies once more. Finally after the long winter of inactivity, they were going to face the unknown once again. Tomorrow their adventure would begin.
Tuesday, 1st October, 2002, 11:42 PM #4
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Thanks, Lazybones. I know what you mean - I am also far behind in reading story hours, especially since I just found them last month! I'm glad you liked the bios, although my players have to take credit for them for developing such wonderful characters! I hope everyone enjoys the story - we only play once a month so it should be fairly easy for me to keep on top of it (we play 3 times a month actually, but in 3 different campaigns). Its been about 5 years since I tried to write anything so my pen may be rusty, so a lot of this story hour is me flexing my creative muscles again and getting into the habit of writing every day. I hope to have the rest of the first session up in the next couple of days, then I may start another to go into the history of our party before we play again.
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 12:03 AM #5
Novice (Lvl 1)
As someone who plays wizards routinely, I thought the first couple of paragraphs really gave put some life into Artimas. Well written.
BTW, I hope you'll post some stats at some point. I'm always interested in how interesting characters are constructed.
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 06:27 AM #6
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
The adventure begins....
Welby rose early the next morning, as he always did. He turned to find the wraith-like creature that had become his closest companion hovering near, awaiting his bidding. He preferred the shadow’s company, as he guessed he always had. It was simple, guileless, and he could communicate with it without speaking. He silently directed it to find something for breakfast. “Just not chicken,” he thought, “Never chicken.” He shuddered just a little. Chicken had been his favorite food, and his friends had chastised him many times for raiding farmers’ hencoops. It was just since they had fought that thing the others called a cockatrice, he had no stomach for it anymore.
The shadow soon returned and told him that some goats had been left out to pasture overnight. Welby grunted and stepped over to the window, pulling it open and preparing to slip over the side, when he remembered. They were going on a bigger hunt today, they were hunting the black elves! He would wake the others before he ate. They would want to get an early start.
No dream, no thought penetrated the thick fog of Grick’s mind. He floated in complete oblivion, unaware of anything that should pass in the world around him. Then the numbing shock and sudden pain as the blow hit him.
“Aaaaargh!” He roared and tried to leap to his feet, but got tangled in the soggy sheet and went tumbling to the floor, dripping water.
“I’m truly sorry Grick, but the others are waiting. Everything is packed. They are anxious to start this journey. And to be honest with you, so am I.” Quinn’s voice piercing the painful fog. “Besides, you can go back to sleep on the cart.”
“Everything is packed?” he rasped, hating the dry croak of his voice. “They packed the whiskey?”
“Of course, Grick,” she sighed, and he heard her footsteps recede as she walked away.
Malobar was secretly pleased. He had grown worried about his choice, watching the adventurers drink late into each night and rise late in the day, except for the wizard. And the wizard! His cart was full of horrors - the scuttling detached human hand constantly busy with some task or another, the chattering, grinning skull, and the things that stared back at him from those sealed jars! No wonder the dwarf found him distasteful, though Jack was no fairer to the elf’s eyes.
However, this morning some of his fears were laid to rest. He found them busy when he arose from reverie and ventured downstairs, loading the last couple of crates onto the covered wagon. Even the half-orc was present, though bleary eyed and clumsy. Perhaps this trip would not be a complete disaster.
The companions followed an old cart track running through the farmlands and surrounding wilds for about ten miles before reaching the Broken Hills. As twilight settled over them, Dalomar guided them to a worn shepherd path that wound through the hills. They passed several farmsteads as the darkness deepened, but the houses were burnt and empty, a silent testimony to the savagery of the drow. Finally they reached their destination.
The trail rose toward an ancient graveyard overgrown with weeds and fallen to rubble. The path ran between two well-built stone mausoleums that has weathered the ages and led at last to a niche carved into the hillside. Just within, the stone doors of the crypt stood closed within a masonry alcove.
Welby reined in the horses and lept off the seat of the wagon. He gestured at the two buildings, and the doors beyond, and turned back to face the others.
“Yes, Welby, I believe we should check the buildings first. Best to make sure they are empty and no enemies remain behind us.” As Artimas answered the halfling, he stepped down from the wagon and moved to a storage compartment built near its rear. He pulled the compartment open, calling softly “Igor, come, I have need of you.”
The sound of rustling as it rose to its feet, and then Igor pulled its rotting carcass from the closet. ‘Igor’ was in actuality the animated corpse of the party’s last thief, a man they had known only as the Mask. They had picked Mask up in the capital, and he had been an effective party member until the battle with the dragon, until he turned upon them and stabbed Artimas in the back as the dragon fell upon them. Jack hated the rogue even more than he hated Artimas, and he had turned and smashed the Mask in the ribcage with his great axe before worrying any further about the dragon. After the battle, Quinn had raised Jack from the death that had claimed him. Artimas rewarded Mask in a different fashion. Now his festering corpse staggered from its compartment and took the burning torch being handed to it. “Here, Igor, carry this and walk close behind me.”
Wrinkling his nose in distaste, Malobar moved to inspect the entrances of the two mausoleums. The larger of the two buildings had obviously been broken into at some point; chisel marks scored the door deeply. The other however, did not appear to be disturbed. In fact, a layer of plaster sealed the door except for a crack running along the bottom. The door to the smaller building was also decorated with some sort of crest and some letters scored into the stone. He looked closely, wiping dirt and grime from the letters. “This is in the Ancient Tongue!” he called over his shoulder. “It says ‘Chahir,’ must be a name, and then ‘Together for Eternity.’”
Artimas stroked his whiskers thoughtfully for a moment. “Chahir...means nothing to me. We will inspect the larger building first, since it is already open. Come, Igor, open this door for me.”
Jack stepped forward. “This is wrong, we should not disturb the dead,” he growled. “We are here to track the dark elves. Let us continue to the main crypt and try to find their entrance within.”
“Nonsense, Jack. There might be enemies within, we can’t leave them behind us unsearched,” came Artimas’ retort. “Besides, we might find something useful.”
“Suit yourself, necromancer,” Jack spat the word. “Don’t expect any help from me then if you find more than you expect.”
Artimas shrugged and turned to the larger mausoleum. Oblivious to the argument, the stupid zombie had carried out its last command and opened the door. Motioning for Welby to follow, he commanded the undead to enter and the pair followed it, searching the small area while the others waited outside. They quickly discovered that this place had been used as a campsite many times before, and housed four smaller crypts whose occupants had been robbed of belongings long ago. Artimas left the building and moved across the road to the other one, the zombie shambling behind. Unable to force the door, Artimas ordered the zombie to break the door down, ignoring Jack’s heated protests until the door finally split and fell to the floor inside, bringing a cloud of dust swirling out into the night.
The light of the torch dimly illuminated a small room thick with dust, bare of features other than two large sarcophagi rising from the floor. Malobar could see the expertly sculpted features of a man and woman adorning the pair of coffins. The room appeared undisturbed, but a vague sense of disquiet hung in the air. The dust lay thick and heavy across the room, and then he saw, by the sides of each coffin, a small dark patch, like earth laying upon the stone floor.
Malobar could feel the hair on his neck standing on end as he drew his sword and moved into the chamber. He heard the soft tread of Artimas and the slow shuffling gait of the zombie as they followed him into the chamber. He quickly motioned Artimas to wait by the entrance and silently crept further into the room. He approached the closer sarcophagus when the air changed density suddenly and a man materialized from the air before him.
The coarse looking man flashed him a grin that revealed a pair of wicked canines growing down and chuckled. He heard a cry behind him and glanced back to see a second figure had materialized beside Artimas. “Thought to rob the dead, did you?” the fiend laughed as it swung its fist towards him. “Yeah, that’s what we thought we’d do, too.”
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 02:05 PM #7
I don't think you have to worry too much about being rusty, Sniktch.
"They packed the whiskey?"
Is the hand Artimas' familiar, or something else?
I can't decide which character is my favorite, but I'd love to find out more about how Welby wound up as a Shadowdancer...
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 03:30 PM #8
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
They packed the whiskey?
Thanks, drnuncheon and skaros, I appreciate the praise.
Skaros, I should be able to get the characters' stats posted by next week, and I'll be done with the first post by then. I spoke with Artimas last night, and he's going to hand me a journal of all the group's early exploits on Friday. Since we only play once a month, that'll give me something to write about in the interim.
Our group travels about in a traveling actors cart that they acquired after a disagreement with the actors, who were lycanthropes. Artimas has turned it into his traveling lab, but they fill it with anything else they think they might need. For Grick, that means several barrels of strong liquor so he doesn't need to worry about falling out of his stupor during an adventure.
The hand is one of several grim creations that Artimas keeps around. Its simply a creeping claw that he keeps in honor of the Addams' Thing. His familiar is a bat, Nibbler, that has kept to its cage quite a lot of late. There is also Chatters, an animated skull that serves as his alarm ("Chatters, if anything approaches our camp start clicking your teeth"), and Igor the ex-party member, and a homonculous running around somewhere.
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 06:06 PM #9
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
The battle with Chahir
Artimas gasped in astonishment as the men appeared in the room. He backpedaled away from the vampire before him, trying to keep Igor between himself and his foe. He could see a deadly dance starting between Malobar and the other foe. Then his ears picked up a rhythmic chanting from the back of the chamber, strange words that he could not quite comprehend. He threw himself backward to avoid the clumsy punches of his opponent trying to concentrate on the strange cadence he recognized as spellcasting. “Haste,” he thought as the spell concluded. Immediately a second chant began, and this time his eyes widened in alarm. “Lightning bolt!” he yelled, diving towards the open doorway. “Vampires, help!”
Malobar threw himself flat and rolled aside as the crackling arc of electricity leapt through the air. He felt his hair standing on end as the energy passed overhead. It continued past him, tearing a great gouge from Igor’s side and sending the zombie slumping to the floor, its unlife spent, before catching Artimas in mid-dive and slamming him to the floor, gasping for breath and smoking. Artimas pulled himself into a sitting position and began waving his hands and chanting in return, trying to fall into the words and flood the room with daylight. The pain of his wound proved to be too much, and he broke off, his spell miscast and wasted. Before he could rise to his feet a small form vaulted over him. Welby leapt to engage one of the vampires, plunging his dull gray blade forward and feeling the satisfying impact as it bit deep into undead flesh.
Malobar parried another blow and concentrated on the room around him. There was obviously another foe, a wizard, and invisible. His trained senses focused on the dust swirling through the room, the smell of his undead foes, anything that would help him locate the spellcaster. Yes! There, behind the sarcophagi, stood a third figure. Malobar could see the dust swirl as the figure began to wave its arms, could hear the low murmer as the spellcasting chant began once more. He caught another clumsy blow on his sword and twisted, sending the clumsy lesser vampire staggering past him. Not looking back, he rolled forward towards the stone coffins and towards the most dangerous foe.
Quinn held back for a moment as Grick plunged into the room, turning to face Jack, who had not moved from his seat near the wagon. “Are you coming? It sounds bad in there.”
Jack shrugged and began packing tobacco into his pipe. “Bah, I warned ‘im I weren’t to help if he disturbed the dead again.” Raising his voice, he shouted, “Ya hear that, graverobber? Enjoy yer reward.” He turned away, refusing to meet Quinn’s stare.
Quinn shook her head in disappointment and disbelief, then grasped her holy symbol and prepared to enter the tomb. Two more blinding bolts of crackling energy tore through the open doorway past her, then a burning figure in black robes stumbled out and fell into her arms, weakly coughing blood. She laid the tortured figure of Artimas upon the ground and fell within her prayers, calling the healing warmth to her hands that she might save his life.
Malobar stayed crouched behind the sarcophagus, watching as two more arcs of lightning flashed across the room. The agile halfling and swaying half-orc both easily dodged the spells, but Artimas had not been so lucky. The bolts sent him twitching and dancing right out of the doors. He pursed his lips and hopped to the top of the stone block before him, quickly tumbling along its length and scoring a stinging hit on the invisible mage. The figure stumbled backwards, then turned and began crawling up the wall! It must be another vampire. Malobar fumbled with his pouch for a moment before pulling forth a vial of whitish liquid and quickly swallowing it. As the potion of spider climb took effect he scuttled up the wall after the retreating mage.
Quinn relaxed as the healing power flowed from her hands and she saw the color returning to Artimas’ face as his wounds began to knit themselves together. She kissed her holy symbol, giving Dumathoin quick thanks, then moved to the mausoleum entrance again. Grick and Welby hacked with their swords at their opponents, and both appeared to be unharmed. Malobar hung from the wall by his feet and one hand, swinging wildly at the air. She thrust her holy symbol towards Grick’s opponent and yelled, “By the power of Dumathoin, begone, foul creature!” The undead let out a wailing howl as the wrath of her god descended upon it, reducing it to a fine ash that mingled with the dust swirling through the room. At the same time Welby hacked at his opponent once more, and the vampire dispersed into a fine mist as his blade struck home.
“The wizard is invisible and crawling across the ceiling! Help me!” All eyes turned to follow Malobar as he crawled, across the ceiling now, still stabbing furiously at the air. A spray of stinging bolts leapt from mid-air and thudded painfully into the four heroes now in the room. Grick roared and leapt onto the wall, using his enchanted slippers to charge into the fray. Welby dropped to his knees and began rummaging through his pack. Quinn fell into prayer again, this time calling a ray of pure light that she sent in the direction of the magic missles’ appearance, which hit nothing before scoring a blackened groove in the stone. Meanwhile Artimas stepped back into the room beside her and added a spell of his own, trying to cancel the effects of other spells in the room. He felt his counterspell knock down two of the wizard’s defenses, but unfortunately the being remained invisible.
Malobar heard the vampire cursing as its movements abruptly slowed, and then he heard a voice in his mind. “Serve my will, elf. Kill the wizard, and all those who dare oppose me.” Malobar stiffened, trying to resist the attack on his mind, but the assault continued. Although the mental battle took only seconds, it felt like hours to the rogue, and sweat began to drip down his face. Finally, he could not resist the powerful will brought against him, and he leapt from the ceiling, his glittering blade flashing towards Artimas as he fell.
Grick saw the elf fall from the battle and begin attacking Artimas, and stopped, confused. He had lost track of the opponent! He tensed, waiting for a sign of his enemy’s presence, and then heard the chant resume from one of the far corners of the room. He ran towards the noise as another forked tongue of lightning slammed into Quinn and Artimas, slashing at the empty air and hoping to make contact. A laugh came from his side, and then, as he furiously tried to catch the taunting noise, six arrows of acid streaked through the air and impacted, one after the other, into the armored figure of Quinn.
Welby finally found what he wanted in his pack and stood, a glass vial in each hand. He went into a blur of activity, pulling the stopper from one vial after another and sending the blessed water splashing through the air. Most of it fell to the ground or soaked the furious half-orc, but one splash of water struck another figure, and the air was filled with a howl as smoke began to rise from the point of impact.
Artimas fell away from the furious attack of Malobar, holding his side where the elf’s magic weapon had opened a wicked, bleeding wound. He pulled a wand from his belt and waved it at the elf. No effect. He expended more energy from the wand, ducking to avoid a whistling strike, and this time the magic took hold. Malobar froze, held by the magic for a little while, at least. Artimas turned and staggered towards the slumping form of Quinn. Above him the battle raged in full on the ceiling, Grick now tracking the creature by the smoke from its wounds as Welby still furiously splashed holy water into the air. He bent to examine Quinn’s wounds and found that the acid had done grevious harm, eating through her armor, clothing, flesh, and muscle to expose the flesh of her ribs. “My turn, my friend,” he muttered, then fell into prayer to Arawn. “This one is not ready to journey to your realm, mighty lord. Grant me the strength to heal her wounds so that she may help to send the cursed spawn back to your bosom.”
Quinn grimaced as the healing energy mended the burnt hole in her chest. She opened her eyes once more and took stock of the battle. Artimas had collapsed beside her, blood seeping from the cuts he had received from Malobar. Grick still ran about the ceiling, roaring in pain each time another volley of silver darts materialized and blasted into him. Welby turned to her and shook his head, all of his holy water expended. Quickly she knelt by Artimas, healing him again so that the enchanted wounds would stop bleeding. Then, calling upon her god to consecrate the crypt with holy energy, she turned and scanned the ceiling for the smoking, still invisible vampire. Finding him after a few seconds, she rose her holy symbol and focused her will. “Dumathoin, grant your servant the strength to vanquish the unholy! Return this evil man to the death he has cheated!”
The vampire fell from the ceiling, suddenly visible and shrieking. She advanced towards it, brandishing her holy symbol, and it dispersed into a small cloud and sank into one of the sarcophagi. The room fell silent once more, the friends, exhausted by their victory, collapsed to the floor and did not move for several moments. Then they rose, weakly congratulating each other, and started into the chores that winning brings.
Grick toppled the engraved slabs from the two sarcophagi, shattering them on the floor. In each they found a vampire deep in torpor but rapidly healing from its wounds. Artimas stepped forward and handed Grick two wooden stakes, then turned and left the tomb. After Grick staked the two vampires and ensured their second death, the companions found several sacks of coins in one of the coffins. Artimas returned with a disgusted look on his face. “Jack fell asleep. He’s out there sleeping against the wagon with his pipe in one hand. What a waste.”
“We not share with him, then,” stated Welby as he started to lift a heavy sack.
Artimas stopped him. “Allow me. Come, my servants, carry these sacks to the wagon.” Four skeletons marched into the chamber, their bones gleaming in the moonlight, and began to lift the bags from the coffin and carry them from the room. The companions’, used to these silent minions by now, searched the rest of the chamber, looking for anything they had missed. Malobar approached Artimas, who was kneeling over the still form of his servant Igor.
“My apologies for wounding you, Artimas. I did not mean to cause you harm.”
“Don’t think of it. You had no control over yourself – the vampire dominated your will. Come, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Few have the strength of mind to resist a true vampire, especially one so ancient. If you had truly meant to harm me, you would share his fate.” He gestured towards the fallen Igor as he said this, then bent and placed hands upon the rotting carcass. “Arawn, renew the tide of unlife. This one has not yet paid in full for the suffering he caused.” Artimas bent and placed a small onyx gem in between Igor’s ruined lips, then began casting a spell. As he finished, the remains of the Mask trembled and twitched, and then the zombie struggled slowly to its feet, reanimated once more. Artimas picked up the fallen torch and handed it back to the zombie. “Come, Igor. Follow me.”
They left Jack sleeping by the wagon, guarded by the four skeletons, and then together, they approached the doors leading into the hillside.
Wednesday, 2nd October, 2002, 10:38 PM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Entering the crypts
Malobar approached the doors first, the others a couple of steps behind. The thick stone doors were set deep into the hillside with a masonry arch, supported by two stone columns carved to resemble two skeletal warriors in full plate armor, their visored helmets open to reveal their leering skulls. Malobar shuddered as he passed between them, then knelt by the door to inspect it closely. After a few moments, he turned back to the others.
“These doors are locked somehow, from the inside. However, they are heavily damaged – someone has tried to force their way in the past. A strong blow may be enough to gain us entry.”
Grick stepped forward, cracking his knuckles. He stretched for several moments and then applied his weight to the door in a sudden push. He could hear the rattling of a chain from the other side, but the door did not give.
“Focus your ki, Grick, remember? You can do this.” Quinn’s voice, soft, encouraging as always. This angered Grick somehow – why was everyone always telling him to focus, and don’t drink too much, and try to relax, and all the other inane questions they pelted him with every day.
He whirled to face her. “I have found a better way,” he growled, pulling his flask from the top of his boot. He uncorked it and lifted it to his lips, feeling the delicious burn as the whiskey poured down his throat, feeling his power increase as the liquor warmed his body. “Hraaaar!” he yelled and threw himself at the door again. This time he heard a snapping and popping sound from the other side, and the door flew inward.
A carved stone tunnel, ten foot wide, stretched away from him. Just inside the door he saw five moldering corpses, black skin rotting away to reveal the tissues beneath, white hair fanned out upon the floor. These were dark elves! Welby pushed past him, gesturing down the tunnel, sending his shadow to make sure no enemies waited near. Then the halfling began to inspect the corpses, bald head shining in the torchlight as it bobbed up and down over the fallen drow. He stood up after a few minutes and waved the others over. He held a small arrow in his hand.
“Drow did this. Drow killed drow, see arrows? Why drow kill?” His small face crinkled in confusion.
Artimas approached him. “Do they ever need a reason, Welby? Drow kill each other all the time – these were probably from a rival house or rivals within the same house, and the other drow took the opportunity.” Artimas winced, still feeling the pain of the wound across his side and aching all over from the repeated magical attacks. “Now, come, move away and let me see the bodies. I am sore all over and would like it to stop.”
Welby stepped away from the bodies. He turned and started down the tunnel to a door he saw, motioning the others to follow. He saw that only Malobar turned back to glance at the mage. Of course, he did not know what to expect, he had never seen this before. Welby watched the elf’s face, and grinned to himself when he saw the sudden flash of horror cross the delicate features as he jerked his eyes from the sight. Yes, Artimas’ grim feast was never a pleasant sight. Best to distract him. “Hey elf, door here. Search door?”
Malobar was relieved to be distracted. “Yes, of course. I will be right there.”
The door was plain and unadorned, and led to an empty chamber with four niches carved into the wall. They gave it a cursory search but found nothing. Apparently the crypts had been abandoned before this chamber could be put to use. They continued down the hallway, following it as it turned sharply to the right, and came upon two more doors. One lay just around the corner, while they could see the outline of the other on the edge of the torchlight.
The first door had been obviously broken into at some point. Malobar pointed to the edges of the door, scratched and gouged by the chisel that had removed the plaster. Artimas motioned for him to step aside, then pushed his zombie forward. “Igor, open the door.” They tensed expectantly as the door swung open, the stone scraping against the floor, then relaxed. Igor’s torch revealed a rectangular chamber empty except for two rows of sarcophagi, one along each of the long walls. “Igor, enter,” commanded Artimas, then fell in step behind his shambling charge.
Suddenly a flash of light blinded them as a glyph was activated on the floor of the room. Blinking rapidly to get rid if the spots, they saw that two enormous glowing lions had materialized in the room. The first swung its paw towards Igor and the zombies head was knocked from its shoulders, the carcass losing its animating force and sinking once more into death. The second lion bounded towards Artimas, seizing the mage in its jaws and bearing him to the floor, where its legs began to rapidly rake at his body, threatening to shred him completely.
Artimas screamed in agony and focused his will upon the spirit floor, calling his ghosts to his aid. Two shadowy forms rose from the floor and grabbed the lion holding him in icy claws. They were soon joined by a third as Welby directed his ally to join the fray. The beast roared in pain and shrank from their cold embrace as Welby and Grick charged in and began hacking at it with their swords. The thing appeared to be wasting away before their eyes, the muscles slackening and eroding even as their fine blades extinguished the light in its eyes. The shadows released the corpse and floated towards the second lion, which tried valiantly to fend them off but found itself unable to harm the insubstantial spirits. Welby and Grick rushed in once more, and Malobar entered the room with his bow drawn, filling the air with arrows. Meanwhile, Quinn grabbed the bleeding mage and pulled him into the hallway, falling over him and once more invoking the healing power to draw his torn flesh together.
Artimas rose again as the second lion fell, its corpse melting away as it settled to the ground. He shook his head when he saw the zombie, then picked up the head and carried it back to the body. “Oh, but this is going to take time, now.” He pulled a needle and thread from a pocket of his robes and began stitching the lumpy mass back to its body.
The others moved past him and began examining the contents of the stone coffins. Thankfully, they found no restless dead in this crypt, and even found some treasure within one of the sarcophagi. The moldering skeleton had a gold torc fastened around its neck and gripped a finely wrought spear in one hand and a slender willow branch in the other. Quinn muttered a quick prayer as she examined the treasures, then nodded to the others. “The spear and wand are both enchanted.” She grabbed the wand and stuffed it in her belt and Welby picked up the spear. Finding nothing else in the room, they returned to the hallway and waited for Artimas to finish his grisly task.
Artimas spoke to the head as he fastened it back to its body, “No, my friend Mask, you do not escape me so easily. I will use this shell of yours until nothing remains.” Finishing the task, he placed an onyx gem between the lips and raised his voice. “Lord Arawn, your servant still has use for this empty shell. Renew the tide of unlife once more.”
The zombie shuddered into motion as it was reanimated once again. Artimas handed it the torch and then stepped into the hall, Igor shuffling behind. The group moved down the hall to examine the next door. They stopped in a semi-circle in the hallway, immediately seeing that this door remained sealed after all these centuries. Malobar stepped forward to brush the dust off of the door, searching for crests or inscriptions. As soon as his fingers brushed the door, there was a crackle and a flare of black energy, and Malobar cried out and fell back, unmoving.
“Death magic!” Artimas cried. He turned to Quinn, “Is he…?”
Quinn examined the fallen elf and shook her head. “He survived, but barely. I will bring him around, but I will have precious little healing left today.”
“Maybe we should rest now,” Artimas stated. “I wish I knew what was behind this door, though. Did we alert anything when he triggered the trap?”
Welby turned to the shadow slinking behind him. “Go through door. Tell me what you see.” The figure disappeared through the doorway for a moment, then came back. Its eyes flashed red at Welby, and he turned back to the others. “Small room, more doors, stone lady.”
Quinn had meanwhile healed the stricken elf. Malobar rose and inspected the door once more, careful not to touch it this time. “Aha! I see it, a little glyph, there.” He pointed to a spot on the door and turned to Artimas.
Artimas stepped up and peered at the sigil. “Yes, a powerful ward, designed to slay any creature that touches the door. You were lucky to survive. Still, if we could just scratch it out, we should have no further trouble in opening the door.”
“I can do that,” Malobar replied without hesitation.
“It will be dangerous,” intoned Artimas. “If you are not careful you could trigger the glyph again. It is doubtful you would survive another exposure to the effect.”
“Hah, it was for this I was born. No trap can defeat me, once I know of its presence.” Malobar pulled a short staff from his pack and pressed a button. The staff grew to twice its length, and then he carefully moved up to the door. His hand crept out, guiding the pole, and then with a sudden motion he brought the staff across the glyph, smudging the magical mark and destroying its pattern.
Artimas concentrated on the door for just a second. “I sense no further enchantment. It should be safe to open the door now.”
Malobar pulled a hammer and chisel from his pack and they took turns hammering at the plaster until it had all been scraped away. Then Welby and Grick positioned themselves in front of the door and the burly half-orc pushed it open. Inside was a small bare chamber thick with dust and obviously undisturbed. Facing the door was an exquisite statue of a regal woman in a long flowing gown. She stood facing the door in a commanding position as if demanding attention from the companions. They stared at her for long, tense moments before deciding the statue was just that, and posed no threat. Finally, Grick shrugged and took a step into the room.
The statue’s arm shot up to point at them, a vicious sneer pulling its carved lips tight. An imperious voice resounded through the air.
“Who dares to despoil my tomb? Leave now or face my wrath!”
Last edited by Sniktch; Thursday, 3rd October, 2002 at 06:11 PM.
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