In Fetid Darkness
In Fetid Darkness
Two great heroes are returned
Old school rules the day
In Fetid Darkness – Old School
"Should we rest or go on?" ask the Ians.
"We have to ressst!" answers Ssarina.
"You may need rest, but we have a number of psychic defenses in play guarding us against harm; maybe we should enter the dragon’s lair ourselves," suggests the Ians, "There may be something of value there. And there is a small possibility that the lair is unguarded or lightly guarded."
"I can go with you, my own magical defenses are peaked," offers Zardoz.
"I am done, for now," says Shaden, "I need a priest, a cot and a woman … not necessarily in that order … I am game if you are woman," he offers to Ssarina. She musters an unfriendly hiss and a glare that could kill all by itself.
"We could all use a break but I am really fine … Maybe we can take a peek," offers Vani.
"No, you stay; you can stand guard at the entrance; the others will need you if something shows up. We will be fine and fast if need be, Zardoz and I will go, " says Ian prime.
"You mean we," adds the second Ian with a wink and a smile.
"Right, we Ians and Zardoz will check it out. Vani will stand guard – just in case Ssarina and Shaden get in a fight rather than setting camp. Face it … night is coming and we don’t want something coming out after us anyhow. We are better off meeting whatever is down there on our own terms."
"Let’s go," says Zardoz and he starts walking to the southern face of the Ever-tree where they discovered a mist-laden path leading into the fetid darkness beneath the tree.
Looking toward the shadowed entrance Ian says, "You wait right here, Vani. That way you can keep an eye on the others and you should be able to hear us, too."
"Why not, have one of you stand guard (suggest either of the two Ians) then both Zardoz and I could join you?"
"It doesn’t work that way. We have to stay close to each other … it drains us to separate while we are together … ironic right?"
The rank tunnel beneath the Ever-Tree leads into moist darkness, the warmth makes it feel almost alive. Having no time to lose the two Ians and Zardoz descend.
As they enter the passage Ian turns to Zardoz and says, "This is fine … we don’t need the others, this is old school adventuring and we are old school. I am very glad you showed up."
"Focus!" interjects Zardoz.
"Oh, right … but I was thinking. I should really start writing a poem about our adventures. A living history."
"What are you talking about?"
"Something like …
Dawn and Dusk bid time,
Beneath the Ever-tree, guard red crime,
Protecting tracks evil left behind,
Greeting heroes in ways most unkind.
"Bravo!" says the other Ian.
"Its a start," says Ian one.
"Quiet, let’s go, if we’re going to do this," says Zardoz.
"He’s almost as grumpy as the Prince of Narsbane," whispers Ecto-Ian.
"Or that ranger fellow we met on the way here, he sure fit the truism, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ If we’re doing this ‘old school’ we need to be living it large! Though I agree that doesn’t mean we can’t be going in with a bit of stealth," Ian prime continued in a quiet tone.
The tunnel has a flat, packed-mud floor cut into a steep decline and the wall is sheathed in wood. At the far-end of the path there is a reddish glow and flickering ghostly light lighting the floor of the cavern. As the floor levels it opens to a cavernous chamber. Nuggets of gold lie scattered on the floor of the chamber but it is a pool of blood chaos and two portal circles that draw their attention. The beautiful shadar-kai witch from the mottled tower flees across a slender catwalk as Zardoz and the Ians enter. As they near, the witch disappears in a swirling cloud of darkness leaving behind a shadow haze that obscures the rear of the chamber, above the catwalk a tall gaunt figure floats, with an animal skull head and a bone bow it hovers near the center of the chamber.
As the heroes reach the floor and start moving through the chamber, the hovering pestilence gasps as if savoring its first breath, a breath stolen from the living. Slowly it descends to the catwalk as cold blue waves of arcane fire begin to dance upon the portal circles in the center of the chamber one near each of the heroes. Suddenly two huge figures appear illuminated in the blue portal light. Two huge cyclopes appear, one in either portal, each heavily armed with a spear, throwing knives and a heavy barbed net. They strike without hesitation. The ectoplasmic Ian deftly dodges. Zardoz dodges too but not as effectively as the bard and he is injured as the point of a cyclops’ spear bites into his shoulder even as the cyclops fixes the wizard with an unnerving glare. Zardoz backs away and the pestilence demon arms its bow and slowly draws back the string a black arrow materializing in the demon’s clawed hand.
Ecto-Ian attacks but the cyclops ignores him pushing forward. The demon fires missing Zardoz, though only barely. Zardoz reacts by slamming the butt of his staff upon the cavern floor releasing a wave of thunder that radiates outward catching both cyclopes forcing them backward.
The true Ian leaps between the giants testing the catwalk with one foot, abruptly a skeletal-looking demon appears on the catwalk between the bard and the demon barring Ian’s progress. The bony demon stabs, cutting Ian, the wound merely cuts his sleeve, not drawing blood, but the attack forces the bard to withdraw a step. Mithril blade in hand, Ian swings through the air pointing the sword directly at the pestilence demon releasing an explosion of kinetic force that knocks the large demon from the catwalk. The fiend falls backward splashing down into the blood chaos amid a fresh red cloud of acidic mist. The demon’s minion strikes again but this time Ian parries the blow catching it with his own sword.
The surrogate Ian calls out to the the cyclops on the west side of the cavern, tempting the monster to pursue him. Zardoz holds the one-eyed giants at bay firing missiles of magical force, aimed with a wand pulled from his robes. Annoyed at its inability to hit the ectoplasmic foe in front of him, the near cyclops reaches for a skin-flask on his belt and hurls it at Zardoz. Zardoz dodges and the flask bursts in the wall spraying the wizard with a strangely sandy mist, immediately Zardoz staggers as a wave of numbness spreads throughout his body and threatens to overtake his mind.
The pestilence demon crawls out the blood chaos on the far side of the pool on the east side of the cavern. Ian duels with the pestilence’s minion slashing the skeletal creature. It disappears leaving the faint smell of sulphur in the air belying its fiendish origin. Ian darts towards the demon again but again he finds his way blocked by a second demonic minion.
With lethargy threatening to overcome him, Zardoz releases another wave of thunder advancing as the thunder pushes the monstrous cyclops. The Ecto-Ian and the second cyclops return to trading blows, with the trade going decidedly in Ecto-Ian’s favor even if only in small denominations. Eventually Zardoz pushes both the cyclopes to the very edge of the primordial pool … the pestilence targets the wizard, firing once, twice … both missing but then a third arrow scores a hit on the wizard. The third arrow is a sickly green color, fletched with mold-covered feathers. It pierces Zardoz painfully in the chest but the arrow vanishes leaving a burning irritation that spreads out from the point of contact. To Zardoz’s benefit the arrow strike breaks the spell of the cyclops poison. Zardoz slams the staff down again toppling one of the cyclops into the blood chaos, the other goes to a knee and cast his net snaring the wizard. The barbed net bites deep into Zardoz’s flesh trapping him.
Ian prime dodges as the fiendish skeleton attacks trying to work past the bard’s formidable defenses. Ecto-Ian prods at the cyclops still in the blood chaos preventing its escape from the pool. The other cyclops stands and advancing on the downed wizard raises its spear high with one trunk-like arm ready to deliver a killing blow but when it approaches the netted wizard Zardoz disappears transforming into moonlight only to reappear several steps away from the befuddled cyclops who slams the staff down again. The cyclops staggers backward falling head-over-heels into the the molten quagmire.
True Ian executes a luring strike to dispatch the second minion, again there is the smell of sulphur then the fiend is gone. Ian takes advantage, quickly he steps forward attacking the master demon establishing a bond of retribution with his attack setting divine energies whirling about their battle. A third minion appears and attacks but the divine energy turns on the creature destroying it immediately. Zardoz draws near weighing into the cyclopes with waves of thunder. One of them finally sinks beneath the blood chaos dead; the second struggles but it is forced back by the wizard’s thunder. Facing off with Ian, the great demon is unable to draw additional arrows in the close melee, instead it slams the bard with the bone bow knocking him backward creating more space. Ecto-Ian yells, "Zardoz, take the demon, I will keep the cyclops down!"
Responding the wizard utters a single word of power releasing crushing force upon the demon who stumbles back collapsing into the pool defeated.
Weary and injured the heroes look towards each other taking a deep breath. Zardoz’s wound from the arrows still burning like a fast spreading infection. He drinks a healing potion, which seem to slow the spread. Ian surprises Zardoz with a prayer to Gaea which results in a healing balm halting the festering wound and providing Zardoz with a burst of energy. Looking up from the wound towards Ian Zardoz sees sudden concern spreading across the bard’s face then a wave of darkness envelopes both heroes as the demon rises floating from the pool of blood chaos siphoning the heroes’ life force to fuel its dark resurrection. It is all they can do to stagger backward away from the demon. Once again the demon is whole and it fires a salvo of arrows in their direction. The first black arrow hits Ian forming a deathly link between him and one of the two dead cyclopes. The dead thing’s eye opens blackened and the monster begins to crawl out of the blood chaos. The second fearsome red arrows strikes the wizard throwing Zardoz into a panic … he flees to the east side of the cavern, into its deepest, tightest crease. The Ians race towards the demon and this time no fiend blocks their path. Fearing for their friend’s life they take turns attacking the demon. The cyclops zombie chases Zardoz into the crevice–blocking Zardoz’s escape. Zardoz howls terrified digging his way into the fissure.
Now undead, the cyclops ignores its weaponry, mindlessly seeking to crush and consume the wizard but the crevice is too tight and soon the wizard recovers his sense and begins drive the zombie back relying on blasts of thunder. As the cavern quakes from the wizard’s spells the Ians work together to drive the demon backing it up towards the pool of blood chaos. The demon resists but the closeness of the fight forces it to use the bow more like a staff than in the way it was designed which works against the demon but still it proves to be a dangerous foe, more than enough for one Ian; but here now it faced two. Ian prime surrounds himself with the Crystals of Cytorrak and yells to Zardoz, "I think that we need to be further away from it when we destroy it. It must have a limit on how far it can drain our life. We’ll attack it from a range and push it back as it destroy it."
As Zardoz emerges from the crevice he finds himself in the midst of the bard’s raging battle having driven the huge zombie back. Without thinking Zardoz unleashes another wave of thunder catching both Ians, the demon and the zombie in the spell. The Ecto-Ian blinks out of existence, Ian prime falls to the ground to save himself from a fall in the blood chaos, the zombie is pushed back, and the demon falls into the pool, not far enough from the heroes to prevent it from draining them again, triggering its fall and resurrection again and again it drains both Ian and Zardoz … the wizard collapses inward, nearly dead, too weak even to call out to Vani.
In the moments that follow the two heroes battle the demon fighting with everything they have left. The fight seems longer than it is and time seems to come to a standstill for the beleagered heroes. Eventually the demon falls, and this third time it doesn’t rise. In the course of the battle, where one zombie fell the second rose to take its place. Ian is infected by one of pestilence’s arrows just as Zardoz had been earlier in the fight. In the end the heroes emerge the cavern triumphant but running for their lives as they are chased by the second cyclops zombie. This second cyclops zombie is ultimately destroyed by the halfling sorcerer waiting at the entrance. Vani duels the monster while the others doing their best to avoid being killed.
When the zombie is destroyed, it becomes clear that their mission has been successful. They declare the cavern free of any immediate threat. Within the cavern they find enough raw nuggets of gold to make a weigh just over four stones (fifty pounds, 5000 gold pieces) and in the back end of the cavern, tracing the path of the shadar-kai witch they discover a portal.
Ian announces, "I think we should rest now," and he begins to muse,
The wicked are sunk,
In chaos pit they had made,
In their net taken.
Cast (at the Ever-Tree): Shaden (PC/Van), Vani (PC/Van), Ian (PC/Andy), Ssarina (PC/Heather), Zardoz, (PC/Mike)
Summary/Goals: Defeat the dragons attacking the fey of the Ever-Tree. Follow the shadar-kai (Sarshan and the witch) thru the portals to prevent their plans to use blood chaos to destabilize the Elsir Valley (or whatever their plans really are).