TOREN 2003 - Stories|
THE WIZARD'S AMULET
The party met in the morning of Seaday, the 9th of Napaksar 7410 AR at the Pirate Plank Inn in Mandaria, the capital of Synrea. They had gathered together to meet their mutual friend, Corian, to discuss plans for an adventure. Dunbar the dwarf wasted no time and had already ordered breakfast complete with ale. The other party members were politely waiting for Corian to show up. Thirty minutes past by and Dunbar had ordered his third ale. There was still no sign of Corian. He had told them earlier that he had found a "key" that could open the way to some hidden treasure in an old abandoned tower complex in the River Quarter of Mandaria. He also warned them that there could be some danger involved and that after all these years it was possible that vagrants could have taken up residence in the complex. Corian's friends began to worry, it was not like him to be late. They decided they should go check on him and funneled out the front door of the inn into the spring storm that was assaulting the city.
As the party neared the building that housed Corian's rented room, Roath, one of the party's two halfling "scouts", spotted a huge rat scurrying down an alleyway. "That thing was bigger than me!" he piped. "My breakfast was bigger than you," Dunbar reminded him. Beonna, the half-elven archer and only female in the group, motioned for silence. Ahead, the party could see that Corian's door was slightly ajar. They hurried forward to investigate and found a gruesome scene. Corian lay dead in a pool of blood in the middle of his ransacked apartment. The place had been thoroughly searched and there were signs that rats had either been involved or had been there in the mean time. On Corian's body the party found two items that the assailants had left behind. The first was a crumpled up letter and the second was a masterwork dagger hidden in Corian's boot.
The letter was written in Kresian. Jarren, the human "ninja" read it out loud in his strange accent;
"'My Dear Feriblan-
I must confess to you-my closest friend-that I was not entirely truthful with you at our last meeting. I feel compelled now to tell you of it, as this may be the last time I write with mortal hands. Do you recall our discussions some months past regarding liches and how users of the arcane arts might achieve that particular state? I must admit to you that the topic for me was not entirely scholarly, as I lead you to believe. And for that I am sorry.
I know that you, my friend, have gazed into darkness in the name of knowledge. That is why I sought your learned counsel. For I too have gazed into darkness. And like you, I found knowledge--knowledge beyond imagining. From the demon-lord Orcus himself I have wrested the secret to lichdom, and I plan to move beyond scholarly talk and bring myself immortality. Imagine it, my friend! An eternity to study the arts, to master arcane power!
As I pen these words I have arrayed before me unguents and phials, instruments and tomes, all necessary for my transformation, save only one--an arcane phylactery of elaborate design. The ingredients for that item will bring me once again to your shop. By the time you read this letter, I shall have retrieved the necessary items and shall be on my way to immortality.
Yet, as I begin to prepare my mind for my wondrous fate, my thoughts turn to you, my oldest friend. Accompanying this missive there is a small silk pouch. In that pouch is an amulet--an amulet I have created for you. I know of your thirst for knowledge. With this amulet, you will have access to my tower in the River Quarter where I shall reside in immortality. If you wish to learn that which I have learned, you may visit me.
Long have others of our kind called you "mad." Perhaps it is I whom they will now call mad. But I do not care for their appellations. Let them say what they will. I have won something far greater than words--I have won immortality, and with it, power. I shall share that knowledge with you, my friend. Visit me soon. Gaze into the darkness again.
Was this amulet the key that Corian had mentioned? If it was, is that what the assailants were looking for, and had they found it? Several party members remembered Feriblan as the name of Corian's teacher in the arcane arts, but no one knew who Eralion was.
Jarren continued, "There is something scrawled on the back of this letter, I can barely make it out. It reads,
'You Fool! You have not the power to become a lich. You will be destroyed and the smoke from your smoldering remains will rise like so much chimney smoke above Turinor Street. Your treasures will lie there waiting for the first sewer rat that crawls into your tower to carry away!'"
The party took their departed friend to the temple of Arksorn and left him with the priests there who began funeral preparations. In the mean time, the party chased down the only clue they had. The went looking for that huge rat they had seen.
When they arrived to investigate the alleyway where Roath had spotted the huge rat, they ran into an ambush. Huge rats appeared all around them and attacked. They were able to kill all but one of the rats and they chased the one that got away into an abandoned warehouse. There they found a trap door in the floor. Just as they were getting ready to investigate, it opened and out stepped an abomination. It looked like a giant rat but stood upright like a man and had arms and legs that looked man-like. It attacked viciously and wounded Dunbar. None of the party's weapons seemed to hurt it until Legion, the party's second halfling "scout", remembered the masterwork dagger they had found in Corian's boot. He drew it out and handed it to Beonna. "Maybe this will hurt it" he shouted. Beonna dropped her three foot sword in favor of the 8 inch blade. The rest of the party did the best they could to distract the rat man while Beonna attacked it. When she cut it for the first time, it shrieked in pain and tried to get back through the trap door in the floor but Almon, the elven monk, had blocked it. The thing savagely attacked Almon in a desperate attempt to get through the trap door, but Almon bravely held it off until Beonna was able to bring it down with Corian's dagger. After it fell to the ground and its heart beat for the last time it transformed into a naked man!
Several party members were bitten by the plague ridden vermin and Dunbar and Almon had been bitten by the rat man. Everyone decided they should rest up before they ventured through the trap door. They quietly hid all the bodies in the warehouse then withdrew. The next day they attended Corian's funeral. Corian did not wish to be brought back from the dead and willed all his belongings to his friends. As far as they knew, that included the letter and the dagger. Everything else of value had been taken from his rented room. They spent the following week healing up. Legion suffered terribly from some sort of disease probably brought on by the rat bites but managed to recover.
Dunbar and Almon were worried by the bites they had suffered from the rat man. They heard all sorts of wild rumors from shop owners and tavern patrons. Many told them that because they had been bitten, they would become rat men at the next full moon.
The party returned to the empty warehouse on Earthday the 17th of Napaksar. They found a small warren of rooms and rat tunnels below the warehouse. They fought a half dozen huge rats in the upper rooms and found two rooms that appeared to be human living quarters. Roath and Legion were scouting out a rat tunnel that delved deeper below the warehouse and stumbled across the evil heart of the warren, a temple to Maaldius, the foul god of evil and chaos. They could see a rat man garbed in clerical vestments hunched over some object on a blood stained alter. They could see walls lined with rat men skeletons. They knew if things went wrong here they would be in trouble. They knew the other party members could not get through the rat tunnels to help them. They knew they should find another way into the temple. They knew they should turn back. They did not. Instead they snuck up on the evil cleric and brought him down with a flurry of silver arrows. As his body hit the floor, the skeletons that lined the walls came to life and started moving toward the halflings. They grabbed the thing on the alter that the cleric had been looking at, a golden amulet, and ran, barely escaping with their lives. The rest of the party was relieved when they returned and were eager to get to the temple to search it for more treasure. They finally found a way into it, destroyed the skeletons, and ransacked the place, finding some more valuable treasure in the process.
The party left the evil rat warren feeling vindicated. They had taken revenge for their friend and they had the golden amulet in hand. Was this the amulet mentioned in the letter? Was it the "key" that Corian spoke of?
The party decided that they should add a wizard to their group if they were going to be a proper adventuring band. Morgan who was a friend of Corian's and a fellow apprentice of Feriblan decided to join them. They all decided to meet on Starday the 20th of Napaksar at noon to go over their plans. Morgan arrived right on time. Shortly after Morgan stepped through the door, two burley men with spears came into the place. They found a table but did not seem interested in ordering anything. Then the front doors opened and three more men with spears rushed in leveling their spears at the party. The two that were already in the Inn joined them. Next stepped in Vortigern, Feriblan's chief apprentice and no friend of Corian's or Morgan's. He was fat and prematurely balding and always spoke as if out of breath. "I know you have the amulet! Ha-Hand it over," He wheezed. The party was not going to just hand it over and a fight erupted. Vortigern's familiar, a black raven, jumped into the air and changed form into a 2-foot tall demonic humanoid with leathery batwings, a barbed tail, and sharp, twisted horns. "Give me the amulet," it hissed. Dunbar found himself strangely compelled to do just as the thing told him, but he fought off the urge and instead began hacking away at Vortigern's thugs. Morgan sent a magic missile streaking toward Vortigern but it stopped just before hitting him. Vortigern smiled, "I am twice the wizard you are Morgan," he said as he began a spell. When he finished, Morgan was blind! The rest of the party fought Vortigern and his thugs and drove them away after killing two of the men.
They took Morgan to a priest who was able to cure his blindness. The priest told him that next time it happens, keep in mind the one who blinds you can also remove the blindness. Morgan vowed to rip out Vortigern's eyes, "he won't be able to cure that blindness."
After recovering for a couple of days, the party made their way to Eralion's abandoned complex on Skyday the 22nd of Napaksar. When they got there they found that it was not abandoned. There was a lone orc keeping a lookout from the complex's bell tower. The party investigated the area around the complex and found that there were three buildings that butted up against its outer wall. One of them had a recently scrawled sign that said "Cloesd." The obvious misspelling intrigued them and they decided to check it out. Inside were 6 orcs. As soon as Dunbar opened the door, their leader stood up, grabbed his shortsword and barked, "We're Closed!" Dunbar did not budge from the doorway and soon he and the orc were at arms. The rest of the party rushed in and overpowered the orcs. Inside they found a backroom where some remains of the old shopkeeper could still be made out. The back wall of the shop had been torn down revealing the bare stone wall of one of the towers in Eralion's complex. In the wall was a recently created door closed with a large padlock. The party found the key to the padlock on one of the orcs and opened the door.
Through the doorway the party entered a mostly collapsed tower. Only the outer walls still stood. The wooden floor above was mostly gone as was the stone roof above that. In the center of the tower was a large pile of rubble wet and slimy with rain. Almon spotted some strange scorch marks along the path between the secret back door they had just come through and the door to the courtyard beyond. Jarren spotted some strange green slime in the middle of the rubble on the other side of the scorch marks. Morgan had everyone stand back while he lit a torch and tossed it into the middle of the rubble. The green slime burned and moved into the cracks of the rubble! The stuff was alive. Morgan performed some magic gestures and the torch began to move back and forth across the rubble, burning the slime wherever it went. With the slime mostly burned away the party entered the tower. Almon helped Legion up to the floor above so that he could do some spying for the party. Meanwhile, Roath looked through the door into the courtyard.
Besides the gatehouse, bell tower, and two stone towers that they could see from the outside, there was also a building that looked like a chapel of some sort and a well. There were doors into the larger stone tower, the chapel, and the gatehouse from the courtyard. A walkway extended around the complex wall. It led to doors in all the towers and the gatehouse. Strangely though, the gatehouse doors were blocked by piles of rubble and furniture. As if there was something inside that the complex's new residents did not want to get out.
Legion reconnoitered along the wall over to the larger tower and peeked through the door being careful not to alert the orc in the bell tower to his presence. Inside he spotted a huge humanoid creature. It stood 10 ft. tall and must have weighed upwards of 500 pounds. Its skin color ranged from dull yellow to dull brown and its thick hide was covered in dark, warty bumps. Its clothing consisted of poorly cured furs and hides and it had a huge spiked club by its side. The thing looked like it was just getting up and as it stood and one of the grungy furs it was sleeping under slid off its shoulder Legion shuddered. The thing's right arm was gone below the elbow and it looked like the stump that remained had been badly burnt.
Legion returned to the party and they decided on a plan of action. They opened the door into the courtyard and Beonna fired at the orc in the bell tower but missed. Morgan then hit it with a magic missile but it still did not fall. Finally Legion killed it with a shot from his little shortbow, the rest of the party was amazed at Legion's luck.
With the guard out of the way, the party crossed the courtyard and entered the large tower. Inside they found a half dozen orcs. Then they heard the ogre coming. The giant came down the stairs and attacked Almon. Legion had stayed behind and went through the upper door into the tower and now he came up behind the ogre. Almon and Legion battled the thing while the rest of the party battled the orcs. Morgan was able to charm the orc leader as the party killed all the warriors. Then he pulled out a scroll he had purchased and used it to summon a beautiful eagle from the celestial planes. The thing helped Almon and Legion kill the ogre by clawing at its face before winking back to its home plane.
After the battle, Morgan questioned his new "friend" the captain of the orcs. His name was Grenbor and he spoke fairly good Kresian. He told Morgan that there was a powerful Half-Orc cleric named Tavik in the chapel along with several more orcs. The party also found out about a secret door in the base of the large tower and that the gatehouse was blocked because huge spiders lived in it. Lastly, Jarren asked about the ogre's arm. "Green slime ate it away," Grenbor told them.
The party assaulted the chapel. Tavik, the half-orc cleric, was indeed inside along with his orcish bodyguards. He was a huge dark creature with a deep voice. The chapel had once been a chapel to Abriel, the elven goddess of beauty and kindness, but was now defaced and covered with symbols to Orcus the demon god of undead. The fight that ensued was vicious and to the party's surprise Vortigern joined the fray from out of a room at the back. Once again Vortigern was able to blind Morgan and this time he also blinded Dunbar. Tavik cast some spell that froze Almon in place and another spell that filled Morgan with terrible fear. Legion had tried to sneak in from the back through the bell tower but he ran afoul of Vortigern's little demon familiar. The thing stung Legion and poisoned him. Soon Beonna joined Legion in the fight. The thing was getting the better of them and rest of the party was loosing their fight with Tavik, Vortigern, and the orcs. Dunbar fought on heroically despite his blindness and stood toe to toe with Tavik. Morgan was out of the battle, blind and overcome with magical fear, but he was able to convinced Grenbor to kill Vortigern for him. Grenbor had never trusted the human friend of Tavik's and happily rushed in to attack the human wizard. With the help of Grenbor, the tide turned. Vortigern surrendered and begged for mercy. Vortigern's demon familiar tried to flee but Legion pulled out his lucky shortbow and shot him through the neck with a silver arrow and he fell to the ground, dead. Tavik was distracted by the turning tide of the battle just long enough for Dunbar to land a killing blow with his axe. Everyone saw Tavik fall but before his body hit the floor, he disappeared!
After the battle, Jarren felt a sense of unease. Things were not right here. He spent the rest of the day cleansing the temple of the evil that had corrupted it.
With the orcish inhabitants of the complex dead or gone, the party took some time to recover before proceeding. Morgan forced Vortigern to dismiss the blindness spells he had cast, then Morgan pulled out a scroll and cast blindness on Vortigern! Morgan's revenge did not end there, however . . .
After Morgan had had his way with Vortigern he relized that his spell was soon to end on Grenbor, his orcish friend, so the party pumped as much information out of him as they could. He told them that Tavik was sent by someone named Koraashag to create a base in Mandaria. Grenbor was hired to escort Tavik and his bodyguards to Mandaria and to act as an extra guard while Tavik set up a base there. Grenbor never had a chance to see Koraashag's complex. From the things he overheard Tavik talking about, he guessed that it was located in the southern Spyropik Mountains. Tavik bragged that it had once been a holy site to the gods Sumeolus and Trasparia. Grenbor believed it was somewhere close to Ossa because that is where he and his orcs met Tavik. With this information in hand, the party killed Grenbor and tossed his body in with the rest of the orc corpses.
Before deciding on what to do, the party had the full moon at the beginning of the month of Aldsar to deal with. It was possible that both Almon and Dunbar had contracted lycanthropy. They visited a temple of Arksorn where they were both confined to cells. Almon did not change when the great moon Lunixia rose over the Darsin sea and shown in through the temple windows, but to his horror, Dunbar did. The once proud dwarf turned into a bloated rat. The cleric cast a remove curse spell on Dunbar, but it did not take. Dunbar remained in the rat form for the next two days. Finally on the morning of Earthday the 3rd of Aldsar he transformed back into a dwarf. The party went on their way for now, but they knew they would have to return and they knew to keep an eye on Dunbar.
The party decided to returned to Eralion's compound and see if they could find his riches. They started with the gatehouse. The place was filled with broken furniture with traces of webbing here and there. Six huge spiders came out of hiding and attacked the party, affecting several members with their strength draining poison. The encounter was a hard one, but the party prevailed with no casualties.
Next awaited the secret trap door in the floor of the largest tower of the compound. Opening it revealed a swath of destruction. Everything below smelled like orc. Broken pieces of once-fine furniture laid strewn about, and shredded tapestries laid scattered everywhere. A single trap door was set in the center of the floor below, and the area around it was strangely free of debris, as if someone cleared all the trash away from it purposely. The orcs had obviously made it this far. The floor of the room was 20 feet down requiring the party to secure a rope to climb down. When they got down and had a better look at the trap door in the floor of the room they found that it was nailed shut with silvery nails, and a number of what appeared to be silver pieces were wedged into the cracks, forming a nearly complete silver square around the perimeter of the door itself. Jarren warned the party that silver was the traditional ward against undead and lycanthropes. The uttering of the word lycanthropes sent a shiver up Dunbar's short spine.
Pressing on, the party removed the silver pieces and nails and opened the door. They were greeted by a faint gust of stale air rushing out from the door when the seal was broken. Once again the floor of the room below was 20 feet down. This time, they could just barely make out one wall and some statues standing near it. They got down to the floor and their light illuminated the walls hiding in the shadows. The one to the south had a wooden door flanked by two statues. When they began moving toward the only visible door, the statues animated and attacked. As they rushing forward from the shadows, the party could see that they were not statues at all but human zombies in metal armor. The party killed them all and, stepping over their rotting corpses carefully avoiding the wriggling maggots, went through the door.
The door opened into some sort of laboratory, with candles, tubes, and various pieces of glassware strewn about on a large table and several workbenches which dominated half of the room. Magical torches, still burning after unknown years lit the place. The half of the room not filled with laboratory apparatus had a large pentagram drawn on the floor and beyond that there was a large copper basin and a wicker basket. Dunbar moved into the room. Morgan cried, "stop Dunbar!" But it was too late, the dwarf was like a bull in a china shop and had already walked across the pentagram. To the party's relief, nothing happened. Morgan silently hoped there was nothing bound there that they could not see. The party's relief was short lived. From out of the copper basin gushed a large amorphose creature formed out of water. Just after that creature took form, there was a sound as of a gust of wind, the top flew off of the wicker basket, and a second amorphose creature formed out of whirling air emerged from within it. The things were powerful and pounded on the party. Everyone fought back as well as they could. The air elemental was the first to be destroyed. The water elemental did not go as easy, and killed Dunbar with one mighty blow to the skull before the party could overcome it.
The party retired and hauled their friend from the depths of Eralion's compound. They took him to the temple of Arksorn where the clerics were able to raise Dunbar from the dead (for a high price).
With Dunbar back, the party went back to Eralion's complex. Beyond the laboratory was a room that might have once been Eralion's bedroom. It was now a den of demons. Four little creatures had made it their home. The things looked like squat humanoids with blubbery, almost hairless bodies. Their skin was pale white, giving way to sickly blue in some areas. They had slack and slobbery mouths with many small fangs, and their hair was sparse and bristly. One of the things emerged from under the bed, another jumped off of a chamber pot to attack. In the melee, two more appeared from out of nowhere. One caused a noxious fume to fill the chamber forcing several party members into heaving up their last meals. The four little things did not fight as mean as they looked and the party killed them all.
In the back of the room was a door that lead to a long descending flight of stairs. The stairs opened into a tomb chamber at their bottom. Stone coffin plugs lined the left and right walls. At the end of the hall on a raised dais of blackest stone, rested a stone plinth. A skeletal corpse lied on the stone, arms grasping a wand. Shards of a once-ornate flask lied on the ground in front of the coffin, and several loose papers sat beside that.
When the party stepped into the room Beonna heard a voice whisper, "Feriblan?" An evil chill filled her and she did not know how to respond. Jeremiah called out as he saw a dark shadow moving on its own near Beonna. The coffin plugs started to crumble as something was trying to dig its way through each of them. Each one crumbled in turn to reveal a zombie behind. The fight was on with the disembodied form of Eralion and his zombie guards. A lich he was not, but the form he had taken might be almost as bad. Jarren called upon the light of reason to banish the undead all around them. Several zombies returned to their dark slumber, but the rest remained for the party to fight. Jeremiah struggled with the dark shadow. His weapons seemed to be of no use against the thing, and Jeremiah could not dodge its attacks forever. Beonna used a new magic bow she had purchased from the Artificer's Guild to shoot the thing and some of her attacks seemed to work. The rest of the party fought off the zombies. Finally after the last of the zombies had fallen, the party overcame the dark shadow. When it disappeared, the skeletal corpse on the stone plinth shifted and parts of it fell to the ground. Eralion was released.
Now the party gathered up his treasure which did indeed consist of many valuable magic writings. With their newfound wealth, they returned to the Pirate Plank Inn to soak their wounds in beer and discuss their future adventures. They could pursue Tavik or they could jump on a ship and seek riches at a small island in the Darsin Sea. There was a posting in the Inn from the Potentate of Angleburg. He was requesting relief from a recent plague of "sea devil" incursions. The Potentate had offered a reward of 1000gp and salvage rights to any mercenary band that could put an end to the raids. They relaxed for now, but they knew the next full moon was coming up fast.
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