Monthly Archives: August 2013

SOW Chapter14: Escape


yells out frantically, “Jump, jump, they
are at your heels!”

The beaten bard races as fast as he can across the uneven fissures and cracks of
the cavern floor, Shaden and Rhogar just a hair’s breadth, a few fragile steps
behind him, and gaining; but he reaches the far wall first and leaps past Bingus
and Aenied passing through the portal and crashing down hard on the rocky
landing, surrounded by ominous looking trees, barren of leaves, but still in the
company of the other party member who had passed through ahead of him. Without
warning Aenied shoves Bingus through, lowers his shoulder and rushes Shaden
hitting the half-orc squarely hard enough to cause a secondary collision with
Rhogar; all three of the former allies tumble together in a heap.

As the realization that his cherished blade, the Sword of Kas, has been lost Kas
yells out,


his mail-clad foot hard for emphasis at the close of his declaration; Kas sends
tremors through the rocky floor hard enough to create a spider web of cracks emanating
from beneath his heavy foot. Kas glares downward towards the spreading cracks,
his eyes opening wide as his sudden peril sinks in, but before he can react the
ground opens up beneath the mighty vampire falling away beneath him and dropping
him in the fast moving current of the river which flowed fast and strong under
the floor of Arantor’s lair. Kas is immediately swept away by the rushing water
and disappears without another sound. Quiet settles, but is soon interrupted by

“I know we’ve been through a lot, but are you okay? … And by that I mean are you
yourselves again?”  

Finding themselves suddenly free of Kas’s influence both of the other heroes,
Shaden and Rhogar; look up, Rhogar in shock and amazement not really knowing how
he had got there, and Shaden with the realization of who he had become and how
far he had fallen. Seeing the wonderment in their eyes, Aenied continues.

“Good, it is as I had hoped. As for me, I am done, or soon will be. They need me
now on the other side. I can be of no more service to you here. You will have to
rely on each other if you are to survive, and you must. There are things you
both must still accomplish in this life. Rhogar I offer you my magic, all the
power I can yet muster that you might be fit to continue; and Shaden, I offer
you my life, drink deeply, and fill yourself with my vitality. Leave nothing
behind … It is the only way you can free me to do what must be done. Do it now
quickly, for I must be away now. There is no time for discussion … There is more
at play than our own pitiful lives. Shaden do it now! ”

Light bursts from Aenied body, and then coalesces first in Aenied’s hands and
then his fingertips before finally leaping to Rhogar and engulfing the
dragonborn warrior in a healing glow; then seeing a hint of hesitation in
Shaden’s eyes, Aenied takes a dagger to his wrist, slicing deep, letting the
blood run as he reaches out to Shaden holding his wrist to Shaden’s lips while
with his other hand he drags the dagger’s sharp blade over his throat opening a
second spurting gash which sprays Aenied’s blood grotesquely over Shaden’s face.
Overcome by bloodlust, Shaden sinks his fangs deep in Aenied’s wound drinking him
in greedily in careless gulps and Aenied encourages him until Aenied’s strength
begins to fade and he slumps over unable to hold himself up any longer; Aenied’s
arm falls away and Shaden feels it as Aenied’s heartbeat slows, weakening, but
the half-orc vampire stops himself short of killing Aenied with a herculean
effort of self-control. Glassy-eyed, Aenied stares at Shaden, and says,
“There is still good in you, I knew there
was. Where there is life, there is hope, and you are yet alive; see that you
stay that way, and lead Rhogar out of here, you owe him that much. Now finish me
and be on your way, my time here is finished.”

Shaden picks up the fallen dagger and buries it in Aenied’s chest. As Aenied
dies, his body begins to fade away shedding off a dark, black mist, unlike the
previous mists they had encountered within Monadhan. As the mist sheds, Aenied’s
form shifts, expanding taking on a heftier aspect, one with thick red hair and
beard, the mist dissipates until this new form is distinct. Aenied in this new
form addresses
Shaden again rising, with the dagger still present and buried in his chest but with surprising
new found strength and conviction and says,
“Have we been here before? This seems
familiar, but…Louie, the tables are turned this time. Seems you will storm the
keep without me. Don’t let this hunger control you, you are stronger than all

suddenly his form loses cohesion shifting yet again, this time to an aspect more
familiar to Shaden, that of Ian, but Ian had himself been missing, or more
correctly, had changed, after taking on his own new aspect when he started

calling himself Jeroen

just after Shaden had slayed the original Jeroen in the showdown that took place
the bloody arena of the Stone-skinned King. In the arena Shaden had fought
Jeroen while he was calling himself Virizan, the shape-shifting monster that had
been controlling Cachlain. As Virizan he had given Shaden and the Brigade a good
thrashing and during that final battle he killed Sidgevin, the Coalition’s
so-called Vindicator. Sidgevin had come to the Brigade’s rescue during the battle
and succeeded in holding off Virizan long enough for Shaden finally

burying his sword in the monster’s back
Jeroen died with the monster somehow prompting Ian’s transformation eventual

the dagger still embedded, Ian continues,
“I’m sorry friend, but it was a
necessary sacrifice. You understand don’t you, it was for the greater good. You
were not yourself. The push was required.”
Then as his form starts to shift
once more Ian’s eyes turning into brilliant wells filled with light he expands
to an indistinct form that encompasses the entire lair and then suddenly
coalesces into an ominous looking hooded man with odd pale skin and blazing red
eyes, this time with dagger missing and speaks with a voice that is a oddly
distorted combination of the two pervious voices, Ian and the red haired man, “This isn’t
working; we’ve lost control. It isn’t me anymore or us; there is some other
presence here …”
As Ian’s strange form finally disappears completely from view,
a final telepathic thought invades Shaden’s mind saying:

“Those who cannot remember the past; those that do not know the future, are
condemned to repeat it. Warn the Knights. Leave now while you still can!”

Both adventurers, Shaden and Rhogar, finding themselves completely restored and
with Kas and Aenied gone, look about the massive cavern and suddenly realize the
Arantor’s body too has vanished, Kas warnings immediately come to mind:

the dark lord is defeated, his remains will discorporate into mist and the sky
above Monadhan will darken as a strong wind begins to well, a storm building; as
dusk arrives Arantor will wake within the heart of the storm and he reenact his
night of slaughter; everyone still in Monadhan will die!”

Shaden turns to Rhogar and says,
“Neither of us will make it out of here
alone, and you at least do not deserve to die here … Let me help you, it is a
matter of honor, we can settle our differences later, but we must leave now or
not at all.”

The hulking dragonborn stares down at the tall, but shorter half-orc for a few
drawn out seconds weighing out the available options and in his own mind whether
either of them should survive this encounter at all and then after a moment’s
thought he answers, “Agreed.” which
brings a halt to discussion as they exit the chamber together following the same
path by which they had originally come, climbing back up to the entry shelf, and
out the solitary exit to Arantor’s lair without taking any time to consider the
ramifications of everything they had just seen.


of Sulfur


their steps and expecting to find the cavern filled with statues, the travelers
wander confused as the air within their narrow passage becomes ever more tainted
with a stench that is almost unbearable. Before long the passages widens and
then opens into a larger unfamiliar cavern that while offering no explanation as
to where they were, did account for the foul, rotting smell. Within the cave
they see one large cone-shaped formation—like a tiny volcano, only about 5 feet
tall—in the center of a putrid pool of yellowish steamy liquid. Scattered around
the periphery there are smaller like, volcano-shaped cones, each of these only 2
or 3 feet high each surrounded by chunks of broken rock. Along the nearest wall
a pair of withered, emaciated undead approached eagerly with a quick, stuttering
gate, their eyes were filled with darkness like hate-filled holes of ruin.
Deeper in the cavern a large, dark-cloaked skeletal figure stood tall holding a
heavy sword; it hovered several feet above the cavern floor. The largest geyser
erupts silhouetting this largest undead horror as it draws his blade challenging
the trespassers.

Rhogar charges in targeting the wights who fall upon the dragonborn and
begin clawing at him in frenzy with no concern for their welfare ignoring Rhogar
size and furious attack; as soon as their filthy claws find purchase in Rhogar’s
hide the strength flees from his body and the wights begin to feed on the
dragonborn life-force. He feels their cold, harsher than winter’s soul; it tears
though Rhogar wracking his body with their every touch. He staggers backward
stumbling over the nearest geyser and it explodes with the dragonborn standing
atop it, he is immediately engulfed by a poisonous sulfuric cloud that both
poisons and blinds him.       


Shaden fares better, if only slightly. The reaper glides through easily,
ignoring the cloud of debilitating

and moves to attack the half-orc calling out the half-orc as rushes toward him,

“Death is a debt all men all must pay!”

Shaden meets the reaper’s attack with a parry, forestalling the reaper and
countering it successfully, but his blade passes without resistance through the
reaper’s body. They battle such back and forth for several moments until Shaden
realizes that at some point, Rhogar had fallen, and the wights were standing
over his body feeding on whatever life yet lingered within Rhogar’s trembling
frame. Putting the reaper’s attacks out of mind, Shaden turns his attention to
the wights leaping within the midst and forcing them off Rhogar with a flurry of
attacks. Having driven them back, Shaden crouches low over the dragonborn he
reaches for the last of his own healing potions and forces it down Rhogar’s
throat his concern growing that he might already be too late. The reaper drifts
silently above him, never ceasing his pursuit and continues to attack.

“Death does not wait to see if things are done or not done.”

 Shaden parries those attacks he can and
endures that which he cannot, and soon he is rewarded by Rhogar’s choking
recovery; the dragonborn rises, his vision returned and drives the wights
backward allowing Shaden to refocus his efforts against the solitary reaper. The
battle rages on for several more tension filled moments, but with his strength
recovered, Rhogar splits the first of the wights in two with a full arcing swing
set parallel the ground which catches the wight midsection severing the
monster’s spine. The wight tumbles vivisected, wailing out in hatred, and
throwing the wights allies into a renewed frenzy, but alone the remaining wight
is no match for Rhogar who continues pushing the monster back deeper into the
chamber until another of the geysers blows granting the wight a moment’s respite
within the resulting cloud of poison gas. The reaper descends dropping between
Shaden and Rhogar while simultaneously attacking them both, its attack keep them
at bay due to the reaper size, and reach forcing to hold at a distance favoring
the reaper.  

“Thee who have crossed my path, should etch thine visages with worry, for thee
find thine selves in the company of death never ending;

Gods pour life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled;


The aura of doom spawned by the reaper encourages the remaining wight to
advance, but the wight finds Rhogar still poised waiting, and the dragonborn
dispatches this final wight quickly dismembering the undead horror with a wide
blow that catches the creatures legs, the undead thing’s torso continues to
crawl and struggle to pull itself across the rocky ground using its claws to
gain purchase over the rough ground, but Rhogar ends these efforts, splitting
the monster’s skull. The reaper draws closer, in another move anticipated by
Rhogar, a gift of his father’s training, he turn the reaper advance against him
unleashing Rhogar’s own wrath upon the approaching reaper. The reaper quickly
withdraws but not before Shaden also takes advantage, tightening in upon the
wraith-like horror, flanking the spirit, and trapping it tight between himself
and Rhogar. They close like a vice upon the reaper and it never recovers, blades
that had been passing harmlessly through the spirit finally bite, tearing at the
reaper’s essence. Refusing to yield the monstrous incarnation of death howls and
slashes back, even while becoming ever more insubstantial in the wake of the
warriors attacks until finally clearly defeated, the monster fades away issuing
one final promise.

“Thou cannot banish thine end so easily, nor the fear of it; thou hast demeaned
only thine selves by resisting my release of thine mortal coils which is the
truest fate of all men; for in time thine very body will betray thee leaving
thee in hopeless misery, as is the case of all good fortune, dynasty and
civilization … I would but have spared thee this horror, the horror that is
thine own existence … Go forth and bathe thine selves in it enduring the
suffering that will surely plague your every step!”

 Hurt but unbroken, the warriors continue
their journey to the surface.    


of the Void



they continue working their way toward a hopeful escape, at the next cavern they
encounter the two warriors notice a magical ward emblazoned with silver that had
been worked into the stone of passage in a full band that circles the passageway
from top to bottom. Ignoring the seal they approach the open cavern, given that
neither Shaden nor Rhogar could make sense of the ward even if they had wanted
to try. Neither was well-versed in the study of arcana, even so it was soon
clear that there was little hope of either simple or safe transit through the
cavern standing in front of them. It had become obvious that they were lost.
They had never seen the sulfur filled cavern, and this new cavern was also


The cavern the floor fell away almost immediate. Phosphorescent lichen near the
cavern floor made it obvious that the cavern’s floor was a long way down, and in
front of them there was only empty space and darkness, but neither of the
adventures had bothered to carry any independent source of light, still the dim
light offered by the lichen was enough for Shaden’s orc-born heritage to grant
him enough clarity of vision to see that several small islands of rock were
magically suspended in the open air of the cavern. Quickly he points them out to
Rhogar, but in the darkness Rhogar can only just make out the largest of these
near islands not being blessed by the half-orc’s night-vision.


Both of the heroes fail to see the two dark clouds hovering near the ceiling,
one over each of the two largest islands, nor are they aware of the haunting
spirit of the ghost of Macaebus, the
former resident of the shanty who had died earlier in the course of heroes quest
as he sought to follow them into the dark lord’s lair. He had been the first
victim of the death giants. And worst of all, a warped lich waited. This Lich of
the Void was hidden from sight on the landing located on the far side of the

lich, Noorikhan was hateful of all living things, and even Arantor’s death
giants made efforts to avoid the lich. The ward at the entrance of the cavern
had been put in place to hold Noorikhan within the cavern rather than to keep
anyone else out. The lich was immortal and undying, utterly without heart,
conscious or human empathy; in fact Noorikhan wasn’t and never had been human;
he was an aberration. Long ago a great wizard who had become trapped within
Monadhan sought to escape by transforming himself into a lich. Creative as his
plan was it went array when during the process of his study he reached out to
the Far Realms, a mysterious, insidious region that rest somewhere beyond
sanity, light or known existence, but a voice the Far Realm had answered, and
the wizard’s mind was utterly

destroyed by the encounter and he body was possessed by the forces he had
contacted, and it was no longer his own. The new consciousness, Noorikhan was
all that was left. Noorikhan immediately sensed Arantor’s power and he was drawn
to it like a moth to a flame. He wasted no time, abandoning the shanty, killing
anything he encountered, Noorikhan descended into the dark lord’s caves and
there he was found by Bahlik Gur and his death giant guards. A pitched battle
followed in which several of the death giants fell; Noorikhan body also was
destroyed, but five days later the lich rose again and continued his quest until
the battle was rejoined as Noorikhan continued his descent. Defeated a second
time, the rakshasas bound the lich within this cavern, and he had been trying to
escape ever since. As his arcane power festered within the chamber it fused with
the very stonework that made up the walls of this prison ultimately giving
Noorikhan a modicum of control over the rock within the chamber. Noorikhan
values little, seemingly only the pain and suffering he could cause other; he
sought to enslave any living soul that entered his chamber, cursing any who died
to unlife and then binding them to his continued service. It was into this
prison that the heroes had wandered.

Shaden quickly leaps to the nearest of the islands, as he lands the
malicious darkness above descends upon him in a rush; the callers are completely
incorporeal having not form or substance, they were the essence of the fractured
minds of dozens of Noorikhan’s victims who had died together in this chamber of
terror. Its only goal was to draw others into this fear-wracked, horrific
existence. As the monster falls upon Shaden he is immersed within a cacophony of
hellish telepathic whispers, each calling for Shaden to die or surrender, along

with threats and pleading requests for the half-orc to join with them; as Shaden
is immersed it is as if he was within a tearing pool of pain, as if he was being
bitten by a dozen foes at once from every direction. As Rhogar lands behind him,
a new foe manifests lingering in the space between the two largest floating
islands, the ghost of Macaebus.

In an echoing voice he accuses, “You left me to die! All I wanted was
freedom, and only freedom! Was it not enough for them to kill me? Am I not the
most cursed of all souls? Free me from this darkness! Am I not worthy of the
peace of death?”

The ghost’s chilling accusation stills the two heroes in place, as if a
vice had settled over their hearts; they find themselves dazed by weighty
vitriolic pall of Macaebus’s charge. Unable to resist, Shaden stammers
struggling to come up which an excuse for having letting Macaebus die.

“You weren’t supposed to follow
us; I wasn’t there!”    


responds Macaebus as he glides towards Shaden wrapping his ghostly fingers over
Shaden’s head seeking to possess the half-orc.

Rhogar’s magically quickened fullblade rips through the ghost’s body,
forcing Macaebus to withdraw still crying over the injustice of his new
existence. Freed from the ghost’s trance Shaden leaps to the second island where
the second dark cloud of callers greets him continuing the attack; Rhogar stays
put continuing to contend with the first cloud of callers. These evil spirits
are more powerful and more voraciously evil than Macaebus; they were not so
easily driven off. Their attacks were painful on a psychic level, numbing and
weakening; both of the heroes resisted at first; Shaden easier than the
dragonborn, with his new vampiric nature working to defend him against the
spirits attacks, in short order he disperses the cloud and makes the leap to the
final landing on the far side of the chamber and calling out to Rhogar to hurry
himself across.

As Rhogar fights off the remaining group of contentious spirits,
Noorikhan reveals his presence to the half-orc with the discordance clatter of
his evil excited laughter. The lich appears before Shaden, glowing in hues of
purple, dressed in the tatters of finery, a skeletal visage of distain, eldritch
lightening playing at the lich’s fingertips; he extends one arm and violet
tendrils burst from Noorikhan’s hand knocking Shaden to the ground in
astonishment, even the lich’s mirth causes Shaden pain, the hideous sound
somehow causing tears of blood to flow, and filling Shaden a horrid despair
which called him to give up any hope of survival, but Shaden resists and rises
anyhow, possibly more by instinct than with purpose and attack. Shaden could not
hope to match the lich power to power, but Noorikhan was equally unable to
contend with Shaden’s martial skill, and as Shaden’s launches his lurching
attack, but the blade passes cleanly through the air, Noorikhan having vanished
leaving only his echoing laugh still present within the chamber. Suddenly Shaden
finds himself immersed in a cloying darkness within which even he could not see.
Still dazed, Shaden staggers forward remembering were he had seen the exit from
the chamber, as he does he calls, out to Rhogar.

“Hurry yourself dragon, we are not alone, there are worse things in this chamber
than ghosts!”


Having defeated the callers, Rhogar responds searching out and making the leap
to the second large island but the islands had begun to move and even as Rhogar
stood on the second island it started drifting away from the landing; making
matters worse, he could barely see in the inky darkness which had somehow
started to thicken on the far side of the chamber where Rhogar could see
nothing. Then suddenly, Noorikhan glowing tendrils exploded from the blackness
stretching across the expanse lashing the dragonborn, hurling him off his feet
nearly dropping Rhogar to the cavern floor, but Rhogar saves himself at the last
possible moment and caught at edge of the island, pulling himself back up.
Noorikhan had inadvertently aided the dragonborn by providing him direction;
still dazed by the lich’s attack Rhogar expends all his remaining energy in one
great leap toward the tendrils source. Instantly Rhogar is swallowed by the
magical darkness on the landing and he lands hard, but thankfully on solid
ground. There within the darkness he could still hear Shaden call and he begins
crawling towards the half-orc’s call. As he does Noorikhan reaches down lightly
touching Rhogar’s back; crushing entropy engulfs the dragonborn, as Noorikhan
begins draining Rhogar’s living energy from the dragonborn’s body into his own.
Rhogar releases an involuntarily gasp of horror which is recognized by Shaden
and the half-orc moves towards the sounds attacking blindly, but guided by his
warrior’s instinct and experience; within the darkness Shaden scores a serious
blow upon Noorikhan driving the lich backwards, and feeling for Rhogar beneath
him, he grabs the dragonborn and drags him backwards towards the chamber’s exit
crossing the threshold of a second ward which was also hidden in Noorikhan’s
darkness. Having crossed the threshold they had entered into the passage where
Noorikhan could not follow, and escaped.  The
two heroes recover as much as they are able, but without any healing potions, at
an end of their stamina and with no other resources to speak of, all they can do
is struggle forward continuing to rise ever higher through the maze of passages
until eventually they hear running water. 


Giant Boss



Shaden and Rhogar enter the cavern of rivers, the first cavern they had entered
during their initial exploration of these caverns. As they do they hear a
thunderous call,


“Death to the interlopers!”

shouts the lead giant as three of the dark-skinned brutes lumber toward the two
warriors, with them, the metallic panther creature they had faced when they last
fought against these giants in the lower caverns.



An all-out melee explodes in the tight confines of the narrow strip of dry land
pressed between the cavern wall and the flowing water, the giants blocking
passage to the even tighter confines of the passages that led to the surface.
Almost immediately Shaden and Rhogar are separated by the tactics of the giants
who were being led by Bahlik Gur, the death giants.


When Arantor had first awaked within Monadhan, the death giants were already
there. They acted as if they served him, primarily acting as bodyguards, but
they had always actually been the dark lord’s keepers a matter the giants
themselves remained silent about over the centuries of Arantor’s imprisonment
within Monadhan. The dragon had long ago given up on his attempts to force
conversation or information out of his supposed servants. In addition to acting
as a personal guard for Arantor, the death giants took great pains to prevent
anyone’s escape from the domain. Today they had been immediately aware of the
dark lord’s defeat, the land

itself made them so, and Bahlik had immediate galvanized his

giants to cutoff any escape from the lower caverns. As his force attacks Bahlik
taunts Shaden and Rhogar counting:


“One and two, we’ve come for you; three, and four you’ll find no door; five, and
six, I know your tricks; seven, and eight, your souls we’ll take; nine, and ten,
this is your end!”


Shaden charges Bahlik, the giant feigns concern giving enough ground to
allowing the steel predator to leap gracefully over Shaden landing between the
two heroes; it immediately drives Rhogar irresistibly backwards, given the
creature’s speed, weight and power, the dragonborn can’t resist the monster’s
advance. Bahlik laughs heartily and stops his withdrawal easily halting Shaden’s
attack with his heavy shield and then landing a shattering blow with the same
pummeling the half-orc hard to lifts Shaden into the air and slam him hard
against the cavern’s wall; as Shaden struggles to regain his footing the giant
begins raining down heavy blows with his massive mace. Shaden rocks quickly from
side-to-side just to avoid being crushed.


know not of honor nor to flee from your slaughter …Thus will you pass; your life
gone at last!”


Sizing up the predator’s eagerness, Rhogar sidesteps as the monster springs
forward, and lands a devastating blow of his own that would have chopped any
normal beast in two; even against the steel monster, the blow was crippling,
whatever passed to bones in the metal beast’s body were

crushed. The monster collapses Rhogar turns his blade, a weapon designed more
for heavy slashed then stabbing, point first drives it deep into the monster’s
body bringing its struggles to an end. The other giants close in flanking
Rhogar, but the dragonborn was in a rage, and filled with bloodlust, and in such
a state he was not one to be trifled with. Giant blood showers the chamber

but none more so than on Rhogar himself; he quickly drops both the giants and
stands over them scowling, drenched in their blood then turning about he stares
wide-eyed noticing that Shaden was being held down by Bahlik beneath one of the
giant’s massive feet. Bahlik was still trying to land a finishing blow upon
Shaden. It was obvious all of the previous battles had taken a toll upon the
half-orc, and none of the opponents they had recently faced in the course of
their ascent had been fitting fare for a vampire; none had offered Shaden any
respite. Without concern for his welfare, Rhogar hurtles headlong into Bahlik
forcing him off Shaden, and slashes a deep gash into the giant’s ribs. Bahlik
roars and throws Rhogar aside, but the dragonborn keeps his footing, and lunges
stabbing the giant’s impressive gut silencing Bahlik’s ramblings. Shaden crawls
away toward the nearest of the fallen giants, and sinks in his fangs ending the
giant’s weak struggles and taking the giant’s life within him, buoyed, Shaden
moves on to the second fallen giant, his strength growing. Surrounded by four
orbiting soul shards, the souls Bahlik had stolen previous victims, the giant’s
leader fortifies himself consumes one of the souls; his wounds close, and his
resolve hardens; and once again he presses the attack, but Rhogar refuses to
yield and stands firm, preferring to die if he must rather than to allow himself
to be moved by the giant; the dragonborn was ready to die to save Shaden, but
having been screened and protected by Rhogar long enough to feed, Shaden needed
no protection and he moves past Rhogar and attacks Bahlik in a fury. Bahlik is
no match for the renewed half-orc his defenses are as meaningless as his
continued efforts to resist. Bahlik Gur falls, and together Shaden and Rhogar
stand triumphant over the fallen giant and then as one they rise from the
caverns before disappearing together into the jungle.