“Get me some coconut water!”
Wyne yelled as he made his way to the mess in the the throne room, where the command centre for rebuilding the city had been setup. Several mages were working on the throne, now released from their former Paladin master, they were free to study it.
As Wyne sat at the breakfast table with the group and began to feed himself boiled eggs and a few cuts of ham, he drank his coconut water and felt sorry for himself.
Hemmit gets up from the breakfast table to go and have a look at the throne and what the mages are doing to it, he’d never seen a chair so ornate, and never one giving off such an arcane aura.
Jalana, finished with her meal, got up to join him. Whistling and kicking at debirs on the floor from the fight the night before.
They’d never seen it so close, noticing that the throne was made of a hard wood, infused with sapphire, almost running through the wood like water through cracks in the floor.
As Jalana got near to it, she notices a sense of pervasive magic about it..a kind of unnaturalness. A mage was performing a complicated magical spell that seems very complicated to her, with much hand waving and incantations and concentrating. She tried to ask him some questions, but he chided her, telling her to stick to her herbs and dirt.
She punched him, hard, in the ribs.
The spell hovers in the air for a moment, like a burning wheel of flame, multiple runes moving about seemingly random. Jalana, always inquisitive, puts her hand through it.
As she does so she sees, almost in slow motion, tiny flames begin to lick out of the broken spell and, just before it explodes, she remembers a story her grammy told her.
Look, little one, see the serpents in the waters, see how they coil, like flames in the fire
Jalana was in her grandmothers lap in the family boat, looking into the ocean waters at the sea snakes lurking just below the surface
See girl, they are fast, but you can be faster
The old woman put her hand above the waters, and just as one of the snakes rose to biter her hand she pulled it back, faster than the eye could see. Jalana stared at the snakes and hoped she could be that fast one day
Jalana grabbed Hemmit and jumped backwards, flinging her body backwards and towards the floor as the magical Rune exploded fire about the room, conflagration engulfing several of the mages and singing Hemmit’s cleric robes. The mages died in pain on the floor beneath the throne.
“Foolish child!” yelled Lil-lac, as he pushed forwards past Wyne, who stood transfixed, staring at the throne and a redness that spilled from marble beneath it creeping upwards, the smell of copper filling his nostrils.
OUT! came a booming voice from Lilac, magically amplified, which all guards obeyed.
The adventurers stood transfixed.-
All except Jalana, who ran for the nearest exit, like a cat that had upturned a bowl of water and fled the room. -
The throne seemed to shudder and glow, the blue of the sapphire turning a blood red from the ground up. As soon as he deemed he was close enough Lil-lac cast his hands ahead of him and a boom echoed across the throne room. Chanting words from another world spilled from his lips and a weight engulfed the man, seeming to darken the room.
They all witnessed time itself begin to slow down for everything within a few yards of the throne. So slow that a butterfly that was passing by could move it’s wings once a minute.
Wyne came up to Lilac and, still looking at the throne asked him what was happening. Li-lac explained that the throne seemed to be connected to something within the castle, in the crypts beneath, he could feel the power coursing up through the ground.
Wyne turned to the others, they had gotten up from the breakfast table, weapons ready and alert (besides Grash, who remained seated, and Jalana who who just poked her head back into the room, looking sheepish). He explained to them Arryn had never let them inside the catacombs before, it had been forbidden. Wyne advised how Arryn seemed to hide death from them, protect them from it. Wyne explained that Paladins should never fear it, but should understand it, accept that it is of the natural order of things.
Wyne, through the help of Li-Lac, explained to them that they needed to investigate the source of the power, whatever was causing such corruption of the throne, but that they had mere hours to do so before the time-stopping spell ran out of juice. After some further discussion, The group decided that they should be the ones to go down there.
They followed Wyne into the lower reached of the castle, as Jalana tentatively made her way back into the room and followed them, leaving Lil-ac behind to buy them as much time as they could.
They passed the armoury from the night before where Hemmit was allowed to take his pick. The group stopped in front of the door and ask Wyne if they can have some cool things from inside.
“Don’t be preposterous, you aren’t beggars looking for scraps right now! We have important business to take care of, come on!” and kept going down the stairs.
They discussed that they’d like to steal some items from the vault anyway, as they felt like they were entitled to it. After deciding to do so, Grash kicked the door but surprisingly it didn’t open.
Hemmit suggests that they use his Helmet of Teleportation. They all enter the vault, besides Jalana who stays guard outside, and grab as much as they can before twin gargoyle statues begin firing beams of energy at them. Knowing that they wouldn’t be able to survive much longer they teleport out but end up outside the bailey and in the streets.
Jalana advises Wyne, as he’s coming back up the stairs wondering what the hold up is, that the group had gone into the room to take some things against his best advice. He is incredulous, and upset at the news as there was important business to attend to.
Jalana is confounded as to why he is upset and gets upset at him.
As they are arguing, the group is walking down the stairs seemingly fine, and Wyne asks Jalana why she said that they were in the treasure room, she says that she never said that. They continue.
They get to the bottom of the stairs after a few minutes and Wyne turns to them.
“I cannot go any further, I have sworn an Oath to one day become a Paladin, and cannot enter the catacombs with you.” he advises all of a sudden.
The group is upset at this and consider forcing him to go in. They think about it for a while, whilst Wyne stands in disbelief, then reconsider. They don’t need him anyway.
“Good luck to you, and may the light show you the way.” he says, and unlocks and opens the large wood and steel doors, apparently fixed with some kinda of glowing magic aura.
The group stand there looking down a stone hallway, none of them can see very far at this point, but all there is is stone and darkness.
Grash shrugs and steps past the threshold and is immediately hit by a dart in the neck. He stands stunned with one foot in the door and Jalana takes the dart out of his neck.
“Yes, be careful of traps, my experienced adventurers” mumbles Wyne as he folds his arms across his chest.
They group, more warily, make their way into the dungeon.
They make their way down several corridors until they enter the main room in the catacombs. A statue ahead of them is basked in magical light from Grash’s dancing lights.
Hemmit comes forward, looking at the statue, and even though it is quite tall, notices that the statue is standing on a plinth and that it is of the Halfling Godess Yondalla, one of the godesses of the Halfling Race. He goes to the statue and begins to study it, wondering why it would in such a place.
As some are studying, and some are debating whether wrapped up skeletons are mummies, or whether they require flesh to be named so, VuVu walks up to the statue and notices that there is an inscription in the common tongue.
“_Death is unyielding, Death comes for thee. Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee._” She whispers to herself.
“What did you say?” asks Hemmit, who was taking charcoal rubs of some of the runes on the statue.
“I said, Death is unyielding, Death comes for thee. Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee.” she replied, much louder.
As she finished speaking, the hairs on the back of her neck rose and her blood quickened, noticing a spell when she heard one. “Uuugh, not again…” she mumbled.
“Um, this ones moving” said Jalana, backing away from the bones wrapped in cloth, as it lazily got out of it’s resting place.
As the group realised that they were now being surrounded by Mummies and Skeletons, they backed together towards the statue of Yondalla. Hemmit took out his Holy Pencil and a burst of light shone from it, immolating the nearest skeletons and turning their bones to ash. The Mummies were unaffected.
“Quick! Someone do something!” yelled Jalana as she tried to grab the candle out of the statues hands, but it didn’t budge. “Did you say something about kneeling?” she yelled at VuVu.
“Yeah! Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee.” Vuvu replied, as she loosed a quick bolt at the nearest Mummy.
Jalana kneeled down in front of the statue, out of the corner of her eye she could see Grash slipping into the shadows, and tried to reach up to take the candle. She realised that kneeling she couldn’t reach the candle, it was too high.
“Damn it! It’s impossible!” she said, readying her weapons and facing outwards.
VuVu thought about the riddles complex components and realised what the had to do.
“Grab with both hands and then kneel!” she said as she did so.
The candle slipped from the statues hands and for a second felt like a normal candle, then after a moment became impossibly heavy and a light began to hum from it, and VuVu felt the darkness around them all retreat a little.
I will always protect you a faint voice was heard in the room, to who it was directed was not apparent.
As Vuvu stood and looked at the fight around her she saw Grash pour from the darkness and strike a mighty wound to one of the Mummies, but it did not fall. As Jalana cut pieces from their bodies with Wax and Wane Hemmit’s holy fire reached them and burnt their unholiness from their rotten bodies and Grash struck from the shadows, never in the same place twice.
“They keep coming! We have to move!” yelled Hemmit, blasting more and more of the monsters as they rose from their graves.
Vuvu began to walk, and realised with a pang of fear that she could only carry the candle with great effort, and was walking very slowly. The others realised that the light of the candle was keeping the darkness, and the screaming noises, away from them. They began to shield Vuvu as they made their way across the room to the other side, more of the undead poured from their holes, bent on destroying the interlopers.
As they reached the end, Vuvu couldn’t carry it any further, the weight was just too much on her body, and she could feel the candles weight even in her spirit. By this point Jalana had become a wolf, tearing at the undead from just inside the candles light so as to not be consumed by the darkness.
“Jalana wolf-thing! I don’t know if you can hear me but- CATCH!” and Vuvu threw the candle.
Grash leapt again from a dark corner and slashed at a Mummy, beheading it whilst smiling. Hemmit stood, his holy symbol in one hand and his mace in the other, fending off multiple undead and wolf-Jalana’s ears perked up as the candle, end-over-end was flung towards her. She backed up watching it fly through the air, backed up so she was against the furthest wall from where they entered, and jumped into the air, catching the candle in her mouth, singeing not a single hair on her head, for the fire did not burn her.
All of a sudden the room shifted, the half where they entered remained, however the other half shimmered and shifted, seeming to melt away and all that remained were plants, vines, tree trunks, leaves and undergrowth. The smell of wood and moss and life assaulted them. As this happened the undead in the room seemed to wither, melting back into the corpses that they were, losing the power that animated them.
“What…what’s happening?” Vuvu exclaimed as she looked around at the dying and the dead.
“I don’t know, but whatever it is, he doesn’t look too happy about it.” laughed Grash, pointing his sword towards a child pinned to a trunk of a tree, the sharp branch, covered in symbols, piercing through his chest.
They all looked where he pointed, towards the shimmering area of green. They saw the person, a Halfling, seemingly concious, looking at them. They went closer, still on guard and wary of any tricks.
“By the gods, it’s….Arryn.” stated Jalana, as she went closer to him. “What is he-”
The Halflings eyes shot open, and in a voice thick with a melodic-yet-harsh accent, “Please…you have to listen. I am Arryn, champion of my people, sent here to find the darkness that escaped our lands, I-” his eyes went distant, seemingly confused- “- I’ve been here a long time…I think…I need you to take my heart back to my people. I came from Datura, a land in the West, they sent me here…Where? Where is here? Please!” – he became more animated now – “Please take the Dark Heart of the Forest back to my people, they will need to send another champion to kill the Demon That Changes, I have..failed…”
As he spoke the group stood transfixed, noticing that the tree that he was pinned to had a red gem-like structure to it, that the roots seemed to be taking minerals from the ground and adding it to it’s physiology. The roots from the tree were traversing the shimmering barrier and making it’s way up through the catacombs walls into the ceiling, possibly beyond.
“Happy to oblige”
The group was surprised by Jalanas comment, and a little more surprised when she stepped forward, through the shimmering barrier, and struck her knife into the Halflings chest, sawing and cutting with precision until the hole in his chest was open enough to take out the heart. Just before she did so, he looked her in the eyes, Jalana knew the pain must be unbearable, and whispered “..thank you…”. She ripped out his heart, and he died.
As the group stood in stunned silence, Jalana walked back to them, blood soaking her arms up to her elbow, and regarded the heart. She looked at it, dark and still beating, an aura of something about it she did not understand, but wanted to. As she went to take a bite from it she suddenly caught herself and took it away from her mouth.
The others still stood watching, all with shocked expressions, besides Grash, who smiled.
“We should….go” said Hemmit, and he turned back to the stairs. The others followed him out and up the stairs, back to the world above.
They got back to the throne room, where Li-Lac was unconscious on the floor, blood coming from his ears and eyes. Several priests attended him and Wyne assured them that he would survive, but the effort took a great toll on his mind.
The throne was still standing, albeit a little more red in the stones than before, and the mages that were killed in the fiery blast had been removed from view.
As they made their way outside, they see a large group of towns people about the bailey, half of them looking to see what the commotion was inside the keep, and the other half looking to the sky. The group stand on the steps with the huge open keep doors behind them, their wounds apparent, looking to the crowd then to the skies.
The fiery comets had gone but in their place a giant celestial body had taken it’s place, seeming the size of a gold coin held up to the sky, it did not burn like the Twin Suns, but was just….there…hanging in the sky. Like a giant rock.
Even with such a spectacle some of the town folk were yelling, asking the guards what ‘the Dragunship ones’ had done, what evil had they unleashed upon the world, that they were the ones to make the ‘thing’ appear in the sky but moments ago. There was fear in their eyes, but also anger.
A new age has begun! A time of peace and prosperity!
yells one town crier
The end times are here! Doom awaits us all! yells another