Thursday, July 19, 2007

Excerpts from Aust's Personal Notes, III

Final Whispers

The fall only lasted a single breath yet at the time it felt like it was endless. Then abruptly the air ceased to rush past my face, bones were shattered and everything darkened.

For a while my spirit wandered unknown lands, seeking the eternal realm of Arvandor, when suddenly it heard the call, summoning me back to the material world. The spark of life had returned to my body, and I opened my eyes to find several familiar faces looking at me. Judging by the surroundings we were no longer inside the Whispering Cairn.

Gathered around the fire and warmed by cups of tea, Serindë patiently shared the story about their encounter with Morato; the Sigil, which had opened Icosial’s tomb; and of Erik’s cunning that had allowed them to escape its terrible demon guardian. Afterwards she went on to tell about their flight from the depths of the mountain, including a hard-fought battle with Flycatcher after delivering the ghoul’s head. As Sarek had long guessed, the phase spider’s real desire was the Sigil, and so a final confrontation had been inevitable.

Looking back onto all that we had learned so far about the plot to bring about the Age of Worms, Allustan openly declared that his resources were spent. He had only one council left to give: to seek out his mentor, the mighty wizard Manzorian, who dwelled in the city of Magepoint. Before we would embark on this journey, however, it was decided to spend several weeks in the Free City to give everyone the chance to replenish their resources and hone their skills. On my own part I decided finally to follow Coraanu’s advice and travel to the Temple of Corellon in his homeland of Celanis. The journey took about a week on foot. Most of the time in Celanis was passed in silent prayer and meditation or in working at the temple. For my benefit one of the high-ranking priests therefore agreed to craft a special magic holy symbol for me, which we decided to name cal’lafthir, the Guardian Symbol of the Crescent Moon. Two tens of days later I magically travelled back to meet the others joined by Coraanu, who was bearing gifts from the Elders as a sign of their support. Back in the Free City I discovered that Sarek had departed to pursue other matters, but also that a familiar face was once again in our midst: Baruk had finally returned!

Manzorian

We were well underway to Magepoint when a rift tore in the very fabric of reality itself to reveal several barbed demons wanting to conquer the fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts that was now in our keeping. The demons’ attack was well prepared, their tactics to separate us on the battlefield using walls of ice. Thanks be to Corellon, the ambush failed, and we made even greater haste to Magepoint, where we met Eligos and Celeste. Surprisingly, we learned that Eligos had not tried to contact Allustan after the black dragon's attack on Diamand Lake, as we had requested of him. In fact it seems like the two wizards, who are both former students of Manzorian, have had a fall-out of sorts. That is if not something else entirely is going on. Regardless, my intuition tells me that Eligos as well as Celeste are both to be trusted, though neither have told us all that they know. So I suggested to the others that we let Celeste bring our case to the attention of her master, Manzorian.

Approaching Manzorian’s castle, it was obvious that this place truly was a focal point for the arcane. Even through the air itself the arcane energies flowed strongly from an unknown source within the castle, energies that in able hands would be able to strengthen any arcane spell cast in the vicinity.

It was well apparent that Manzorian was a wizard of almost unimaginable power. His surprisingly youthful appearance did little to hide this rather than to emphasize the true extent of his might: even death did not seem to pose a significant threat to this man. Having heard our story, Manzorian revealed to us what he knew about the Prophecy of the Age of Worms, stating that many of the omens mentioned in the prophecy had already been fulfilled. The finding of Icosial’s tomb and the recovery of the fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts were both such signs. Another foretelling told of a great city consumed by the Dead, and though this plot had clearly been foiled by the unravelling of Loris Raknian’s schemes, it was undeniable that beings of great power were working actively to fulfil the prophecy. Pointing to a painting in his study, which showed a ziggurat located in a jungle, Manzorian went on to explain that Kyuss once had been mortal like we and the ruler of a far away southern kingdom. To understand the mind behind the orchestrations, the wizard proposed, would require a dangerous journey to the very place where Kyuss had attained his godhood. If we accepted this quest, he would provide us with the means to get there and back again. Before sending us on this expedition, Manzorian also offered to take on the burden of protecting the fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts. As “payment” he presented each of us with a powerful magical item in return. Erik’s gift was a rune-covered staff, Serindë and Baruk both got belts, Eron was presented with a magnificent black adamantine armor, while I was given a ring, the Ring of Ekebeth. Finally, Manzorian guided us into the heart of his castle, to a magical pool of luck, offering us to drink from it. Two cups were standing next to the pool: one made of ivory and one of iron. If one drank of the ivory cup, he or she would be able to choose a lasting benefit but would in turn receive a random hindrance for such is the nature of luck. On the other hand, if one was to drink of the iron cup, he or she would be able to choose a hindrance and in turn receive a random benefit. Eventually, every one of us drank of the pool, though only Erik chose the ivory cup.

The Ziggurat of Kyuss

Touching the painting in Manzorian’s study while casting a teleport spell, we were immediately transported to a jungle many hundreds of miles to the south. Right in front of us the huge ziggurat rose from amongst many ruins, a strange cactus-like structure posing from its top. A perfectly circular black wall with a diameter of 5-600 feet had been built around it. The wall, which seemed to be carved from a single piece of obsidian, was adorned with writings declaring this to be the “eternal prison of Kyuss”. After investigating it closely, Erik and I concluded that the wall was no mere physical barrier, but served to contain an overwhelming source of divine evil, probably a nexus created by the ascension of Kyuss. "Such intense evil as will leave lasting marks on all those who venture close to it too long", the loremaster warned, which was why we had to make great haste in our investigations or suffer dire consequences.

Watchfully, we scaled the obsidian barrier. Inside the circle, the ground was completely covered with slithering green worms, and thus we took to magical flight to reach the steps of the ziggurat safely. As we drew closer, the first of several visions appeared, showing the past greatness of the jungle city, Kyuss in his mortal form and a six-armed grey-skinned creature, whom Erik identified as a spell weaver. In another vision we saw Kyuss as a cloaked figure with glowing eyes.

Having examined the ziggurat from the outside, we entered at the ground level, where Baruk, who lead our column, was instantly attacked by an undead “Knight of Kyuss”, flanked by two large undead worms. The attackers brought the shifter to within an inch of his life without so much as allowing a single swing. Having felled Baruk in their initial strike, Serindë was next, when Erik pulled us all out using his dimension door spell. Not wanting to press our luck in this accursed place, we set up camp in the jungle and rested for a night before Erik cast another dimension door on the following day to bring us back. This time I swiftly used the Might of the Preserver to destroy the two worms, while the knight was brought down by the warriors. Soon after we had another vision: of the huge red dragon Dagotha swooping down on the ziggurat and grabbing a gold "pyramid" of sorts that protruded from its very top before flying away. The resemblance of a human face was vaguely visible inside the pyramid.

Abandoning the vision we passed through the square chamber in the center of the ziggurat to enter an adjoining room, where we were attacked again, this time by three fallen celestials, corrupted by the evil of Kyuss: a ghaele eladrin and two sword archons. Our airborne foes drew critical first blood as a blasphemy filled the room, but Erik’s response was nearly as quick, trapping the archons behind a wall of force and again pulling us out of the fray with his dimension door. After another night of rest and healing, we returned the next day to resume the fight. Unsurprised, the ghaele responded by striking at the very life force of Coraanu, who fell to the floor, dead. Fortunately and thanks be to Corellon, I managed to revive him and stay his immortal spirit from leaving behind his lifeless husk, before it was too late. Meanwhile the others destroyed the corrupted celestials, before we again retreated to the jungle.

The entrance to the fourth room on the ground level was covered by pair of heavy double doors. Just like the preceding chambers also this room, a library, had lethal guardians: three more Knights and a priest - once perhaps the personal bodyguard of the mortal Kyuss, now powerful undead under his command. While Eron heroically tried to hold the doorway Erik exploded into action, casting spells at an accelerated rate I had never seen before. Alas, in spite of both their efforts Eron eventually received mortal wounds and only by the sacred blessings of Corellon, he was revivified before it was too late. This prayer on the other hand left my flank wide open and would probably have cost me my own life, if not Coraanu had swiftly dealt with the last of the Knights of Kyuss. While the sounds of battle slowly toned away, a new vision appeared showing Kyuss sitting in the library, studying a set of golden plates adorned with alien symbols and writings. Behind him the grey-skinned spell weaver pointed to the plates and as the vision faded away, a look of comprehension spread on the young human's face.

The library was filled with shelves of ancient books, however, all attention was invariably drawn to twelve large glass jars each containing a small worm. After deciphering a diagram from a book as well as the inscriptions on the jars, Erik explained that the worms were an ancient way of passing on knowledge. By eating one and letting it find its way to your brain, all knowledge stored in the worm would be absorbed in your own brain - that is, if you were also able to resist its infection thus slaying the worm itself. From the inscriptions on the jars three of the worms carried knowledge on religion, three on history, three on the planes and the last three stored information on the arcane. Erik had already consumed two and Eron one, when suddenly three worm nagas appeared out of nowhere. Though Erik made sure that we immediately took the fight to them, this tactics nearly backfired when the nagas revealed a terrible gaze attack. Anyone, who stared into their eyes and did not have the sheer will power to resist them, immediately lost all intellect and ability to act, and it was therefore by a close call that we all survived this day.

I wonder, will we all survive the terrible malice, which surely awaits in the dark beyond the pit, leading into the lower levels of the ziggurat?

1 comment:

Taliesin said...

Da jeg ikke selv var med til denne gaming session, så er det meget muligt, at der er "misforståelser" eller udeladelser i ovenstående. Rettelser modtages derfor MEGET gerne.