THREAD A: LEON, ARACHAN AND THELYDD
Arachan appears at the the Yellow Well in the early morning, dressed for battle. He wears his usual black velvet robes, but there are wands visibly poking out from several places. He carries his staff, but a longsword is strapped to his back, and a spiked mace and a scepter can be seen at his belt. His hood, which he does not usually wear, is pulled up, hiding his face from view, though a red glow from his eyes can be seen.
There is a soft scuff from the roof of an adjoining building, a gentle and deliberate notice of someone's presence there. A sturdy halfling somersaults down, her fall oddly slow despite the long drop.
Thelydd has never regretted her purchase of Feather Falling Boots. She lands with very little sound. The halfling is covered with belts and harnesses from waist to neck, all bearing padded pouches and sheathes. There is an additional scabbard strapped to each thigh. A black kerchief is tied over Thelydd's white hair.
"Morning, wizard," she says. Her voice is low for a halfling, but that still places it in mezzo soprano range by other standards. It falls sharply on the thick silence of the courtyard. "We ready?"
Arachan shakes his head at the rogue. "Still waiting for Leon. He'll not be pleased if I begin without him."
Leon slowly walks towards the yellow well, holding his bow casually in one hand as he pads towards the pair. In his usual quiet demeanor he nods at Arachan, but then notices the halfling Thelydd joining them. He looks her up and down quietly mumbling, "That our rogue then?" His tone is not derogatory, but it is certainly not impressed.
Shrugging and shouldering his bow he looks towards the entrance, while not a master of arcane abilities, he can sense the presence of undead coming from the well. He looks at the others and says almost business-like, "let's get this over with."
Thelydd returns Leon's scrutiny blandly.
"Fine by me," she says. "'Ow you gonna get in? I can fit down that 'ole, but I'm pretty sure you two can't."
"I can take us down there. Its best if you go down first, though, so that I can see where I'm going to land. Making sure I don't pop into any nasty traps is nice, too."
"Right, then." Thelydd pads silently past Ormollien to the rim of the well. For a moment she crouches on the rim, one gloved hand on the stone. For a moment she knows that feeling of being one great exposed nerve, a sensation known only to wizards and rogues. Every sense is trained outward, seeking the triggers that will tell an experienced set of instincts where to look, what to listen for, where to reach.
There's something down there, all right. The texture of the walls isn't quite right down in the dark, a few feet below the top of the shaft. There's an old bucket rope hanging down, but Thelydd doesn't use it. Instead she reaches down with one foot and begins to freeclimb.
The trap is halfway down the well, fifteen feet from the surface. Thelydd clings to the wall with all fours as she stares at it, body at right angles to the ground far above. A tiny knob of stone is jammed into the masonry. The halfling can sense magical power on an object in a way that she will never be able to do on a person. The stone reeks with evil.
Thelydd shifts her weight carefully, freeing one hand, and palms a wand from one of her belt pouches. She holds it out toward the stone and flicks it ever so gently, careful not to unbalance herself. The Dispel Magic charge blooms faintly in the darkness. For an instant a purple symbol is outlined in the air above the stone; then it shivers and fades, and the tiny object drops from the wall into the depths. There's a faint *thunk* as it lands. Thelydd holds still a moment longer, listening for movement, before she continues to descend the shaft.
She finds a second enchanted stone at the bottom, just before the vertical shaft opens out into a tunnel. A very different symbol is visible as the magic fades this time. Thelydd grins in the dark as she tucks the wand away. This is gonna be interesting.
She orients herself head-downward, listening intently. There is no sign of a further trap in the clear space at the bottom of the shaft. One hardly seems necessary, but Thelydd now knows she is dealing with the sort of mind that puts two traps into a vertical shaft where no one ever goes. She'll be earning her keep today.
At last she lets herself drop from shaft to floor, landing with a soft thump
that will not be audible from more than four feet away. The tunnel is blocked to her right, choked with piled masonry and sludge. To the right there is a short stretch of tunnel punctuated by crumbling supports. Thelydd makes another examination of the walls, making sure there are no traps immediately below the Yellow Well. Then she puts both hands around her mouth and whispers hoarsely upward:
"Come straight down 'ere! There's a clear space at the bottom!"
The words are not loud, but they seem to echo off into the distance, down the tunnel. Thelydd's sharp ears catch the remote sound of bare feet scuffing the floor. They do not seem to be approaching, however. Perhaps the peculiar indentation on the wall a few yards down-tunnel has something to do with this.
Thelydd plucks a pair of steel picks from a wrist pouch and pads over to investigate.
"Down we go then." Arachan extends a hand for Leon and pulls a wand out of his sleeve. He speaks the wand's trigger, and the next instant is at the bottom of the well. Upon hearing the sounds of movement, he draws and activates wands from several locations, casting Fly, Spell Turning, Blur, Displacement, Protection from Elements, and Protection from Arrows.
Leon peered into the dark, his bow quickly in his hands and an arrow notched. He mumbles a word and the arrow ignites in flames, and streaks down the corridor, lighting the room with a streak of fire, passing through any undead unfortunate enough to be in it's path, lighting them ablaze.
For an instant the arrow illuminates a wight lurking several feet beyond Thelydd; then the creature is dust and the arrow dissolves. Others have drawn back against the walls. They do not approach nearer. One or two show burn marks on hands and faces.
Thelydd does not pause in her current task, poking at a previously hidden panel at about human waist level, but there's a flash of a gold tooth in the near-darkness.
"'S a fire trap," she says. "They're scared of it. It's coming down in 'arf a mo 'ere, though." There's a final click
. "Yep. There it is."
Thelydd turns and flattens herself back against the wall as the undead hurl themselves forward.
Arachan floats in front of Thelydd and Leon. He extends his staff, and there is a bright flash as a lightning bolt leaps down the hallway. After firing two more bolts, he drifts to the ground, and taps his staff to the floor. A light appears at its tip. "No point in going without light now that we've announced our presence."
A wave of arrows quickly flies down the corridor, each zeroing in on the remaining undead creatures. The potent combination of electricity from the bow, and the undead slaying arrows he crafted earlier, they slice through the undead with easy, their bodies surging with electricity and their rotting flesh decaying rapidly, blocked off from their master's necromancy.
The combination of Leon's arrows and Arachan's magic quickly empties the corridor before them, leaving only the mangled charred corpses behind.
In the new silence, there is a sound of claws scrabbling at stone. Thelydd peels away from the wall and runs lightly forward, her back to the light to avoid losing her night vision. There is a round trapdoor in the floor beyond the fire trap. The noise comes from far below, but it is ascending. There is also a rising stench of undead, and it is very definitely from below, not from further up the tunnel. Thelydd squats on the far side of it, one fist on the floor as she listens.
"Skellies can't climb so good," Thelydd says. "It'll be more ghouls an' wights. She cocks her head, hearing a sound like a puff of breeze repeated. "An' wraiths. At least three." She shakes her right arm, dropping a dagger into her hand. The blade is blackened, but it still somehow seems to glow. In the light from Arachan's staff, the metal looks almost insubstantial.
Thelydd glances back to make sure the others are ready. Then she grabs the ring of the trapdoor with her free hand and hauls back, producing a shriek from the hinges as the portal opens. A blast of foul air rises up from below.
Arachan moves forward to stand by Thelydd, prepared to cast Command Undead at anything that comes through the hole.
Leon quietly moves up next to Arachan, four arrows carefully notched in his bow, intertwined around his fingers. His bow angled to shoot straight down the hatch, he nods to the halfling rogue to give her signal to open it up.
Thelydd pulls the trapdoor all the way open. A fast backward roll between the mage and the ranger is all that saves her from evisceration as a shriveled claw rises from below. A ghoul is trying to clamber up out of the hole, snarling with a mouthful of rotten teeth between its lipless jaws. Below it many more are clawing their way up the walls of the sinkhole. A wraith rises straight up above the ghoul, insubstantial draperies floating around it as if underwater.
Thelydd throws the knife so fast that no eye can track the movement. It passes through the wraith as if without obstruction, but the ghostly undead howls and dissipates like morning fog. The knife describes a long parabola, visible for one moment at the distant end of the arc, and flies back toward Thelydd's hand.
Arachan casts his spell, and calmly says "Kill the rest." The undead that he has controlled turn around and begin attacking any undead remaining in the well and in the passage below.
Leon let loose his arrows, indiscriminately lashing through the undead, controlled or not. Those attempting to crawl up the narrow shaft made for easy pickings with his arrows, quickly falling before him. Once satisfied with the lack of movement, Leon mumbled an elven chant and fired one last arrow, it streaked through the dark shaft glowing with fire until it planted itself into the floor below. A moment passed then the arrow exploded in a giant fireball, burning any undead further below that may have been scrambling towards them.
Stinking ashes drift on the air. There is a brief clatter and splash down below, then nothing. Thelydd moves to the edge of the shaft to listen further. Then she lowers herself over the edge and begins to climb down the crumbling masonry, finding good holds from long force of habit. There cannot be any further traps that will affect undead, for those just destroyed would have set them off. It is still entirely possible that there are snares below that will only harm the living.
Thelydd's questing eyes and fingers find no further triggers. She climbs the twenty feet or so down to the bottom of the sinkhole, then shifts around to hang head-down again. The sinkhole opens out into yet another tunnel, though the near end is blocked by debris. Thelydd lowers herself by her fingers until her toes find the pile of masonry and sludge, then carefully shifts her weight. The mound holds. It has been here so long that the components are solid, nearly cement.
The floor that runs off into the dark is four inches deep in turbid water, now even dirtier with the swirling dust of charred undead. Thelydd can hear water falling. There's a drain or hole somewhere up ahead. A stinking draft rises from it like a wind from the grave. The way ahead is yet further down.
"C'mon," Thelydd calls up toward the others. "Mind the pile down 'ere." The shaft is wide enough to accommodate the elf and the lich, but she cannot imagine Arachan choosing to clamber down with all fours as she has just done. She grins into the darkness at the thought.
Thelydd steps into the cold water and begins to quietly wade forward, looking for the drain.
Leon looks towards Arachan, almost daring him to teleport him again, before swinging his bow over his shoulder and jumping into the shaft. He is able to guide his light elven body down the shaft quickly and nimbly, almost bouncing along the cracks and breaks in the ancient masonry. After only a few moments his feet land softly on the pile next to Thelydd. The combination of muck and ash almost makes him lose his balance, but he slides down the slope of the pile, his feet sliding into the ankle deep water.
He mumbles something as the water quickly seeps through his boots, he tries in vain to kick the water out of them, but accepts their wet fate, and looks down the passage ahead of them.
Arachan frowns at the shaft, then pulls yet another wand, this one from a sheathe across his chest. After speaking the same activation word, he touches it to the stone, which forms itself into a straight drop. After stowing the wand, Arachan steps into the space above the hole, then begins to move down. He stops before he touches the floor. "Why a Necromancer would want to live in a place like this, I'll never know."
There's another flash of gold in the dim as Thelydd grins at Leon's muttering. Her boots are knee-length and waterproof. She never goes underground without a way to keep her feet dry. That won't help if they have to swim, of course, but Thelydd tries not to think that far ahead. It's much too likely to lead to a more immediate and fatal carelessness.
"'Cause he don't want to fight every doogooder in the city," Thelydd says. "An' unlike yerself, 'e needs to be close to a source of bodies." Thelydd glances slyly over her shoulder. "'Old up. We're goin' down the drain and if there ain't at least one trap across it 'e's a damn fool."
Thelydd crouches beside the hole in the floor. The moving water dulls both vision and sound down the steep slope. This time she twists a ring on one of her fingers. A red ray springs briefly from her head and shoulders, then shuts off as the Detect Trap spell finishes taking effect.
She can see something far below now, a matching red glow blinking from the bottom of the drain. Someone must have stood on the floor down there to place it.
"Gotcher," Thelydd says, and braces herself against the driest part of each wall as she climbs down toward the trap. She has to practically stand on her head, but in five minutes she has the diabolical little device disarmed and parts of it tucked away in a pouch for future use. She has a look out into the hallway below.
Then she climbs rapidly back up the drain. A moan drifts up from below.
"No traps down there," she says as she attains the top again. "Got 'bout twoscore dead, though. Zombies and wraiths."
When Thelydd mentions a need to be close to bodies, Arachan mutters something about the creation of undead being the weakest of necromancies. He waits impatiently as Thelydd disarms the trap, then takes a position in front of the other two when she announces that there are undead ahead.
Now that the trap is disarmed, zombies are clawing their way up the drain, splashing in the dark water. Wraiths drift past and through them, their low moaning making an eerie counterpart to the more guttural sounds made by the others.
Arachan points the base of his staff down the drain, and a fireball roars through the passage.
The zombies crowded into the drain shriek and wail as the fire sears their shriveled bodies. Some of the wraiths burn as well, dissolving into smoke, but others keep coming. Thelydd's returning throwing knife darts past Arachan, orbiting the wizard in a closed, perfect circle as it cuts through the incorporeal bodies.
Then the only sound is the soft slap
of the weapon's pommel striking the halfling's gloved hand.
Thelydd walks around Arachan and steps back into the drain. This time she slides straight down, staying upright with seeming effortlessness, and somersaults out the lower opening into the tunnel below.
Thelydd swears softly as she lands. The water is hip-deep for her now, though it will be much lower for the others. And there is one dead thing left, wading slowly forward from the stinking darkness ahead. Thelydd backs away as it moves into the light from Arachan's staff that shines down the drain.
The face is horribly torn. Flesh hangs in green-white shreds, and blood is clotted black and awful in the wounds. But there's something familiar about the suit of heavy armor, and Thelydd recognizes the remains of a city guard's insignia...
"Arachan," she says. "You better get down 'ere. I got some bad news."
Arachan drifts down the drain. At the sight of Ohtar's zombie, Arachan pauses. He visibly debates with himself over what should be done. After a moment, the fire in his eyes flares, and he lifts his left hand. A sickly-green ray emanates from his palm to strike Ohtar's breastplate. The ray of light strikes Ohtar's zombie squarely in the chest, and he crumbles into a pile of dust. Arachan floats over to where the body had stood, and his lips move in a silent prayer. then, out loud, he says, "I forgive you for your transgressions, my son, and go to avenge your death." Arachan turns to Thelydd. "Lead on."
Leon follows closely behind Arachan, his bow at the ready, but so far the bloody necro had been doing all the work and he began to mumble quietly to himself.
Thelydd waits in uncharacteristic silence as Arachan destroys the undead husk of his estranged son. She has referred to Ohtar as "the idiot" since their first and only meeting, but this isn't the time or the place for that.
At Arachan's final words she wades past him, looking around and listening. This close to the drain, the noise of falling water still obliterates many of the subtler little sounds she depends on. The tunnel is blocked up behind them, but it seems to go on forever up ahead, stretching on out of range of the light Arachan is generating. Blocks have fallen from the tunnel walls here and there, and roots of trees jut into the walkway like the malevolent fingers of some demon of the earth. The walls are crusted with the black and flaking remains of old blood. It has a stink like no other smell on Eberron. Here and there it forms blotchy handprints, where the less coordinated of the zombies have fallen or pushed against the tunnel wall.
Thelydd moves down the hall a few yards, resisting the urge to comment on her cold and sodden garments. Then she realizes the air is freshening slightly. The odor of undeath does not have its source up ahead.
"'Old on," Thelydd says, and turns and retraces her steps. She walks close to one filthy wall, nostrils dilated as she forces herself to concentrate on something from which every nerve wishes to quail. She's been a rogue for a long, long time as halflings count it. It is now not so very difficult to tell herself that sensory information is just that, information. She has no emotional reaction to it. She has never lost a close friend to the disemboweling claws of a ghast. She's never had a close friend.
Well, not that she chooses to think of at moments like this. Right now there is only the tunnel, and the water, and the worsening smell that seems to come from a crack between two oddly close-fitted blocks of stone.
"'Ere we are," she says to the others. "Looks like your necromancer turns 'is 'and to masonry, time to time. Somebody sure 'as."
Thelydd draws a shortsword and thumps on the blocks with the handle. Then she steps back as the wall suddenly glides back and to one side, revealing a darker tunnel space beyond. It's only ten or fifteen feet long, ending at what looks like a wall but is almost certainly another concealed door.
Thelydd squints into the darkness. There are tiny irregularities in the walls on either side - and the roof, and even the waterlogged the floor. They've been painted over to match the stone. She pulls a weighted cotton sack out of a special pouch on her right arm and tosses it into the tunnel.
Nothing much happens visibly. There's a soft thwip thwip thwip
, and the sack seems to halt in midair, then plunge straight down.
"Dart traps," grunts Thelydd. "This is gonna take a minute." She digs out a couple of smaller picks from her belt pouch and prepares to set to work.
Arachan appears impatient at the delay. "It wouldn't hurt your professional pride too much if I just blocked off all of the traps, would it?"
The halfling tucks her tools away with small, efficient gestures.
"No more it will," she says mildly. "I ain't aiming to spend any more time down 'ere than I got to. Just trying to make sure you get what you pay for." She steps back from the tunnel and makes an exaggerated ushering gesture.
Leon mumbles at the two, "let's get this over already."
Arachan pulls yet another wand from his robes, and points it in turn at both of the walls, the floor, and the ceiling. There is no visible change, but Arachan says, "There are force walls over all of the traps. If they are even able to detect us, the darts will not be able to penetrate the barriers."
Thelydd wades into the tunnel without hesitation. No trap fires. She goes directly to the opposite wall and thumps on it with her shortsword hilt again. It opens as the first did. The smell of rot and decay and death rushes into the room like a breeze from the charnel house. Thelydd does not gag. She's been waiting for it to happen. Their destination is near.
The space opens up enormously beyond the wall, the ceiling soaring off into the dark and the distance. The walls of the levels they have descended must have pressed up against the wall of this great room. There's a soft, constant clicking sound somewhere to the right. They will not need Arachan's light here. The entire stony space is suffused with an awful red glow.
Up ahead the water sloshes. Thelydd moves forward, looking and listening. There are no more traps here, but there's a corner of wall up ahead, and off to the right -
Thelydd purses her lips in a silent whistle. The water deepens up ahead as the floor slopes down into a deliberate pit. There's a stone rim with a ladder on the other side. That's not such a problem, although it means she'll be getting even wetter. She has found the origin of the clicking. A row of rusted spikes is implanted in the floor, jerking regularly up and down.
Once again, those are not such a problem. Thelydd can easily weave her way between them, and it's likely the archer can as well. Arachan's ability to avoid obstacles has so far been amply demonstrated. But beyond the spikes -
"Gods damn," Thelydd says softly. "Looks like yer goin' to work now, Leon."
The dead they have so far encountered are as nothing to the army that crowds the great room. Many of the skeletons Thelydd can see are of the type that mages call Blackbone, seemingly scorched dark, but the few with cold auras hissing and popping around them are obviously Frostmarrows. The purposeful tick-tick of their joints as they move is just barely audible across the expanse of water. The moan of the wraiths is somewhat more so. They drift among and through the others, making the space look more crowded than it is as they fade in and out of view.
Two giants tower above the other dead. They are dragging enormous clubs, as giants often do, but these are also swathed in big, rough wrapped bandages. Their flesh where it shows is shriveled and brown.
At the other end of the room stained pillars extend from floor to ceiling, brown-black walls stuccoed from unspeakable substances stretched between them. A rough temple has been constructed indoors. Torches burn with an unnatural crimson light in their clawed sconces around and inside. There is movement inside the structure, but it is too distant to be seen.
None of the assembled dead seem to have noticed the intruders yet. Thelydd draws her ghost touch returner with one hand and a shortsword with the other. Flames hiss into being around the short, plain blade as it is drawn.
"Awright, gents," she says. "It's your dance. Call the tune."
Arachan stops at the large pool separating them from the mass of undead. "We should fight from here. They probably can't swim, and if they can, we can pick them off as the cross."
Leon follows behind. He stops at the edge of the pool and already has his bow at the ready. He mumbles, "let's do this" and let's loose an arrow into the crowd of undead, not even worrying to aim, knowing his arrows will hit anything in that mass of undead. His fast hands have two more arrows in the air before the first crosses the pool of water and plunges through a ghoul, setting it's body aflame, the arrow passes through two more undead monsters behind it before planting heavily into the floor where it it's magical energy erupts and a small fireball engulfs several more undead around it's impact.
Arachan points across the water, and four meteors fly over, each bowling into undead before exploding in a ball of flames. He points again, and there is a blinding flash as a great ball of light bursts over the heads of the undead horde, reducing many to ashes.
The main force of undead is now aware of the intruders. They mill just beyond the spikes on the far side of the pool, gibbering and clacking. None seems to have learned fear from the annihilation of its fellows.
Then everything grows suddenly still. The massed dead stop and turn as one to face back toward the awful temple. The voice that is now audible has a deep, metallic hiss to it, like the rasp of a foul wind.
"So Ormollien Elanesse has found us at last," it says. It hardly seems more than a whisper, but each can hear it as if it is beside them. "We grieve to find your mind already broken, for it would greatly please us to break it ourselves. And you have brought the weakling Arachan, who pules at the feet of those who ought to be his prey. Come to me now, if you can!"
The dead snap around with terrible focus, and the noise redoubles. Nearby blackbone skeletons part in order to let the Frostmarrows pass. Spheres of magical power soar across the moat as spells of Hold Person
are aimed at the intruders. At the same time, the two mummified giants draw back a little from the crowd. Then they charge forward, bowling skeletons aside in their wake, and leap over spikes and water to land on the opposite side. The ground shakes underfoot as they land, and the water sloshes in great waves over the floor.
Thelydd is completely underwater for an instant, but she keeps her feet. Her hands move in a blur as she sheathes her present weapons and draws others, one Giantbane knife and one Pure Good dagger. She dares not touch the latter without gloves on, but it's worth it. It's always worth it.
One giant raises an enormous foot and attempts to stamp on Leon. The other swings his club at Arachan.
Leon fires barrage after barrage of arrows into the undead as the spell hits him, his body going perfectly still as the spell takes hold of him. He body locked in the middle of grabbing an arrow out of his quiver. He tries in vain to move, struggling against the spell, but his body can't move. Somehow he manages to open his mouth and mumble out a word, activating the trinket on his wrist. The calming energy washes over him, and it allows him to focus his mind and fight the effects of the spell. He breaks out and stumbles forward, before planting his feet again and starts unleashing a fresh volley of arrows, this time in a huge volley four at a time.
Arachan is uncharacteristally impassive as he is insulted by the voice. He sails back as the waves come, and is completely unfazed by the Hold Person spells. When the giant swings his club, Arachan curls his left hand into a fist, and the club stops short of him. The mithral ring on his hand glows, and a shield-shaped shimmer can be seen in front of him. He glides out of the reach of the giant, points at it, and casts Otiluke's Resilient Sphere at it, intending to seal it away for the rest of the battle.
Thelydd becomes a smear of indistinguishable movement as Leon freezes in place. The giant's descending foot stops in midair above the elf's head as the dry tendon snaps, and Thelydd becomes momentarily visible clinging to the creature's shriveled calf, hacking at it. The enormous mummy howls and tries to take a step sideways, but the limb will not support it; it crashes into the deep water, moaning and thrashing.
Thelydd lets go before the giant hits the water, but is caught by a flailing leg and knocked breathless and airborne. She has enough wit left to tuck her arms and legs in before she hits the wall. She feels something snap in her right shoulder as it hits. Then she splashes into the water and flounders onto her feet, choking.
She is in time to see the sphere of magical power form around the second giant, trapping it. It hammers on the walls, but there is no sound from inside.
Thelydd grits her teeth and reaches for a cure potion from her bandoleer with her good arm. She thumbs the cork out and downs the contents.
She looks around for the fallen giant as her vision clears. Thelydd has been a rogue for a long time. To look away is death. Thelydd has not died often, binders or no binders. The pain of rapid healing she is able to ignore entirely. She flexes her arm as it finishes, making sure the joint is properly aligned.
The mummified giant is now bobbing upright in the water, still trying futilely to get its balance. It has lost its grip on its club, which now floats nearby.
Arachan creates an Otiluke's Telekinetic Sphere, with himself inside, and ignores the rest of the undead, floating towards the temple.
Thelydd takes a running leap, kicks off the flailing giant's head, and manages to snag the opposite rim of the pool with both arms. She pulls herself up and does a neat roll between the spikes, then begins dodging among the undead, stabbing as she goes.
From Arachan's vantage he can see the altar and the throne within the shadowed interior of the temple. A robed figure is seated there, smooth-skulled and thin, but it's difficult to resolve visually. The Banelord seems to waver between solid and incorporeal. As he spots Arachan he looses a shower of meteors in the wizard's direction.
Two of the meteors hit the sphere and explode, but the shimmering orb of force around Arachan absorbs the blow, and he appears unharmed. He holds out his hand, and a misty apparition of an olive branch appears, and then fades.
The indistinct figure of the Banelord lowers his arm as he rises from the throne. At an imperious gesture the remaining horde of gibbering undead fall silent, turning to stare at their master. There's one last explosion as one of Leon's arrows destroys several more. Silence falls after the clatter of bone subsides.
Far below, hidden from both elf and lich by the height of surrounding enemies, Thelydd has attained one wall. She stops there behind a Frostmarrow spellsword that now stands staring dumbly back toward the temple.
As Arachan nears the temple he can detect the tremendous aura of a caster at least as powerful as himself. Negative energy fills the air like a sea of poison. The manifold whisper of a voice is once again audible. It is just barely possible to see the Banelord's lips move.
"Why should we speak with you?"
Arachan dispels the sphere and floats to the ground in front of the temple. "I challenge you to an honorable duel, to the death. If you refuse, you announce that you cannot defeat a "weakling" without the aid of your creatures. If you refuse, we will at least cause significant damage to you and your assets before we are slain, if you are capable of such a thing. You have seen what has become of your minions at our hands. It will be far easier for you to kill us if we are separate, if you can manage to kill such a "weakling" as myself alone. If you agree, we may set our terms. It will be your prerogative, as challenged, of course, to set a time and place for our duel to occur."
The Banelord's laughter rises and falls like a gust of wind.
"To whom will we announce this, lich? None will ever know what took place here if none of you survive. You use the word honorable
as if it should have meaning. Again we say that you are weak. But if you choose to die separately instead of together, it is of no moment to me. What says the old Captain? What say you, Ormollien Elanesse?"
The cluster of four arrows hummed with magical energy as the reached the peak of their high arch, gliding just inches under the high dark cieling of the massive chamber. As they started to angle downward, pulled by gravity towards their target Leon had another arrow in his bow, it's string pulled taught with an extra surge of strength by the Elven Archer. He aimed it directly through the throng of undead towards his target. He called out in a loud clear voice, "HONOR IS FOR THE DEAD!" And let the arrow fly, a combination of fire, electricity, and undead slaying energy turning it into a streak of red, yellow, and blue as it ripped easily through the undead hordes, directly towards the head of the Banelord.
"So be it," says the voice of the Banelord. He hisses a word of power as one half-solid arm gestures. A prismatic sphere rises up around the Banelord's body. Leon's arrow impacts on the flickering outer surface and dissipates in a burst of combined energies.
Nothing can now be heard from inside the sphere, but the Banelord can be seen gesticulating with both arms. Still standing behind the skeleton, Thelydd downs another potion from her belt and vanishes from view. She turns and starts to pad silently around the edge of the room as the gathered undead begin to stir again. The trapped giant mummy can be heard howling in the moat once more, still unable to climb out.
At the end of his spell, the Banelord raises both arms, his black hole of a mouth yawning wide in the final word of power. A great gate opens between the Banelord and Arachan, a widening black hole in the fabric of existence. A shape appears to accelerate toward the light, and then the enormous shape of a marut steps out of the portal and onto the stone floor. The construct is nearly twelve feet tall, its limbs disproportionately thick and its skin of such a dark purple as to be nearly black. It is heavily armored in what appears to be gold. No light shines from within the front of the great helm on its head.
The helm turns slowly as the Banelord flings one arm forward. The construct raises one arm, and a bolt of lightning crackles out toward Arachan.
Every single undead creature in the room turns and pours toward the moat and Ormollien Elanesse. As the first wave tumbles into the water, gnashing and roaring, it is obvious that their fellows behind them will soon be able to climb over. A few are destroyed by the spike trap, but the number is small.
cutting down swaths of their numbers, but the massive group continues to surge forward, as every undead that falls two more seem to take it's place. The churning water of the moat fills with the creatures until, scrambling over each other, the first few undead finally crawl out of the other side of the moat and are greeted with a fresh flurry of arrows. They are quickly replaced as more and more come charging at him.
Leon starts to slowly back away to give himself more room to fire as the trickle of undead turns in to a torrent streaming at him, his hands in a blur of motion drawing arrow after arrow from his quiver, until his hand reaches back and there are no more arrows to let loose. Leon sighs and mumbles an unspeakable curse, putting his bow back over his shoulder and grabbing his shield and rapier. As he unsheathes the blade, it engulfs in magical flames. Leon brings the shield up to block his body presses his back up against the wall of the room, his rapier held straight out, and he awaits for the oncoming onslaught.
Arachan recognizes what the marut is, and anticipates its attack. When the lightning is fired at him, he fires his own from his staff, nullifying the marut's. After pointing at the Banelord's sphere and casting Cone of Cold, Arachan hastily creates his own.
The cone of cold penetrates the sphere, but it is weakened. The Banelord appears more solid for an instant, baring rotten teeth, but then he fades into semicorporeality again. The marut strides forward, reaching to swipe down at Arachan with a gauntleted fist. The prismatic sphere flashes through three different colors as the marut's body intersects with it. The construct does not slow. Minute fractures in its armor seem to anneal shut almost as fast as they appear.
Undead continue to stream across the now-clogged moat. There are perhaps thirty left, including two frostmarrows who now stand back, waiting for their powers to recharge. One looses another Hold Person spell, then champs its jaws, its magical power exhausted again.
The great room is emptying quickly as the remaining undead funnel back toward Leon. Thelydd finds it easier to make her way silently and rapidly around toward the back of the Banelord's makeshift temple. There is an opening behind the throne, as she expected. A pallet of straw lies between the back of the temple and the stone wall of the greater room. Undead do not sleep. It must be meant for a living servant who is now dead or gone. Thelydd nods to herself.
She begins to creep up behind the throne very slowly and carefully. Every breath is measured, every step tested by feel. There will be only one chance. If she is detected, there will not even be that. There is nothing in Thelydd's arsenal that can destroy a powerful undead in one blow. The best she can do is leave him momentarily unprotected for a truly lethal blow from one of the others - if the others survive so long.
Leon is fully crouched behind his shield and back against the wall when the spell hits him. He mumbles and curses as he tries to fight it, but the spell takes hold and freezes his body in place. The undead stream at him, piling up against him and beating on his shield, the others in the back pushing those in the front forward and down, a ghoul is pushed onto the ground and while it's fellow creatures trample and squish it's lower body, it's upper body pulls it's self under Leon's shield and sinks it's teeth into his leg, biting, gnashing, and clawing it's way through Leon's mithral leggings until it finds exposed flesh, and begins to claw a bloody mess into Leon's exposed leg.
Leon lets out an agonizing soundless scream as he does his best to focus his thoughts and try not to panic, the undead hoard have piled all around him, and are scrabbling over the top of his shield when he finally breaks free from the spell once more, quickly pulling himself back and plunging his rapier into the offending ghoul below him, then smashing it's face in with his other good leg. All he can do against the undead tide is curl up behind his shield, keeping the thick sheet of mithral between him and the clawing of the undead creatures, while his poking through at them with his rapier. By combination of trampling and rapier the undead at the bottom of the pile soon stop moving, but the ones at the top gnash and claw their way through their unmoving brethren in an attempt to get at the elf below. Underneath the pile, a bloodied Leon is panting and grinding his teeth in pain. His leg is bleeding heavily, the ghoul having bitten down to his bone, and his shield arm is bending inward, the pressure from the shield snapping the bone in his left forearm. He says a quiet spell, calling a small healing spell onto his body, it doesn't do much, just merely stopping the bleeding and dulls the pain.
The inevitable's fist clubs Arachan in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground and sending electricity through his body. As he tries to get up, he realizes that the arm is broken. Growling in frustration, he uses the power of his fly
spell to get off of the ground. He backs out of the sphere, on the side opposite the marut, points at the Banelord's sphere, and casts Mordenkainen's Disjunction.
Before he can tell if it works, he waves his good arm, and his own gate appears. Another marut steps out, and the rift closes. He points towards the first marut, and commands, "Destroy it!"
The Banelord gives vent to a horrifying sound, a skull-rattling static hiss more inhuman than any scream, as the wave of disjunction strikes his prismatic sphere. The sphere bursts like a soap bubble. He snatches up a wand from his belt, extending it toward Arachan as he mouths a word of power, but nothing happens.
The Banelord's marut, still following orders, turns to pursue Arachan, heedless of the prismatic sphere around its waist and legs. Cracks begin to appear in its inhuman purple flesh as its regenerative abilities begin to fall behind the damage caused by the sphere. The second marut lumbers forward, swinging a gigantic fist. It connects with the first marut's shoulder, sending it to its knees. The Banelord's construct ignores it, reaching out to swat at Arachan again, but the blow and the sphere have done their work. Its body shatters, sending fragments of armor and the inhuman fleshy clay of its body in all directions. They fade moments after striking the ground.
Thelydd, crouched in the shadow of the Banelord's throne, feels a wave of momentary nausea as the disjunction passes over her. She swears silently but viciously as she recognizes the words Arachan has spoken. She raises the hilt of her Pure Good dagger to her cheek, testing. It tingles. The enchantment is intact. The ghost touch returner, however, is now completely plain and solid in her other hand. It is now no more than an ordinary throwing knife. She has no time to test all of her wands and potions, but from the power of the mage casting the spell she is sure that half will now be worthless. Bloody godsdamned sticks and colored water.
Time to improvise. Well, that's not unexpected.
Thelydd sheathes the throwing knife, hefts the Pure Good weapon, and does a rapid tumble forward past the throne. She feels the aura of death as she enters it, like climbing into a haystack made of needles, but she has survived this before. It doesn't stop her.
The halfling takes a forehand-backhand swipe at the Banelord's conjectural hamstrings as she comes up onto her feet. It's hard to see anything through robes and the haze of incorporeality. One blow moves through as if through smoke. There is resistance to the second. The necromancer hisses like a kettle on a hot stove, but his concentration is broken. He lowers his arm and turns to look for the source of his torment.
Leon let out a soft groan of pain as he examined his wounds. It was hard to properly see them curled up under the mass of unmoving corpses, but he saw his right leg, ripped to shreds, his bone sticking out, his left forearm that was strapped to his shield bent inward. Then he heard the scraping and ripping, the undead outside tearing their still brethren apart to get at him. He let go of his rapier, stuck in the armor of a whight, and held out his hand. Closing his eyes to focus, he summoned his arcane magic to create a magical arrow, then mumbled a word in elven, causing the arrow to ignight in a bright red flame. A wight finished ripping a hole through one of the ghouls stuck against Leon's shield to reveal Leon's small cocoon under the pile of undead. For a reward, Leon shoved the arrow into the wights forehead, and with all the strength he could muster, pushed it back. The Wight fell off the pile as the arrow began to hiss loudly, a second later a large explosion rocked through the remaining undead monsters piling around Leon, igniting them in flame.
Arachan's marut, having fulfilled its command, dissapears. Arachan floats over to where the Banelord has fallen. He tries to grab hold of the necromancer, a task made more difficult by the fact that he is trying to use his shattered left arm, and moving it purely by force of will.
The Banelord, currently hissing and snarling imprecations as he hurls a necrotic blast at Thelydd, is unaware of Arachan's approach. Across the room, the remaining undead turn from the battered archer and begin to stream back toward the temple.
Thelydd sees the bloom of dark energy around the necromancer's hand just in time. Her nose and ears are already bleeding from the death aura, but she manages a neat backward roll.
The spell explodes harmlessly against the back wall of the temple.
As the necromancer casts the necrotic blast, expending some of his own dark life force, his body grows momentarily more solid. Arachan's broken, shriveled hand closes around the Banelord's cold left arm.
"For your crimes against the living, and for your defilement of the dead, I condemn you to eternal imprisonment,
" Arachan says. His voice is layered with the power of the spell, making it sound as if multiple people speak his condemnation. When he completes the phrase, the spell is also completed. Arachan hopes that in its weakened state, the Banelord will not be able to resist the magic trying to exile him to the bowels of the earth.
The Banelord's torso twists away from Arachan as he attempts to jerk free, but the sphere of power is already forming around him. The wraithlike body dwindles into a tiny shape, and then the sphere plunges downward and out of sight, leaving no hole behind.
That just leaves the furious undead now charging toward Arachan and Thelydd. There are eight blackbone skeletons, five wraiths, and two Frostmarrows left. As the Banelord is imprisoned, his ability to hold onto his summonings is weakened, and the two spellswords burst into black dust. Any remaining hold spell on Leon vanishes with them.
"Well, you went an' killed me ghost-breaker, but it got the job done," Thelydd says. She steps past Arachan as she wipes at her nose with a rag from her belt. She sheathes the Pure Good dagger with her other hand and draws a short scepter. The head of the weapon hisses with an acid enchantment. "Got anything left?"
Leon grunts and groans and pushes his way out of the smoldering pile of undead, his own body scorched and smoldering from the the final close range explosion. He moves slowly, only able to shift the bodies with one good arm, and only able to put weight on one leg. He finally pulls himself out and onto the cold stone floor as he continues to cough and wheeze. Contemplating a job done, he pulls a cigarette out of his armor, and lights it on one of the burning corpses. He puts the cigarette in his lips, inhales, then blacks out.
Arachan leans heavily on his staff, apparently weakened by imprisoning
the Banelord. "He had more power than I expected. I have... enough. I want to seal this place off before we go."
"Awright, then," Thelydd says. She casts an evaluating glance at the lich, but sees no reason to disbelieve him. "I'm gonna go see what 'appened to Leon. I let'im get killed the cleric'll 'ave me guts for garters."
Thelydd rapidly thumbs through potions, tossing aside those that are obviously dull and dead, before finding one that still looks blue and bright. She downs the contents, drops the vial, and vanishes from view as the remaining wraiths and skeletons charge toward Arachan.
Arachan looks warily at the undead. He has expended most of his prepared spells, and those he has left are unlikely to help him against the remaining skeletons. He will have to rely on the magical items he carries.
Arachan taps his staff to the ground, and a glowing pentacle glows briefly. A great serpent-like creature, with rainbow-coloured wings, appears in the center, and then the pentacle fades. "Destroy the skeletons!" Arachan commands. The couatl launches itself at the first blackbone, wrapping its body around it. A great "Crack!" can be heard as it crushes the skeleton's body.
Thelydd's head pounds from the effects of the death aura, and the persistent red mist at the edges of her vision makes it difficult to concentrate on where she puts her feet. Consequently, her progress toward the back of the room is more rapid than it is silent. A single skeleton and two wraiths peel off to pursue the invisible halfling as she runs past. She can hear them clattering and moaning behind her.
Thelydd detaches a pair of compact conglomerations of metal from her belt and tosses them to the ground as she runs. She's been saving the traps as a last resort. She can tell from the tingle through her gloves that they're still functional. As they fall, they unfold with little snaps and clicks, fading to almost the color of the stone.
The skeleton runs right into the first one. It flails madly as flames creep up its frame, then falls into dust. The wraiths slow up in their pursuit, but do not find the second one in time. The burst of divine magic outlines both in white for an instant. Then they are gone.
Thelydd climbs carefully over and through the pile of bodies mounded up in the spike trap and the moat. Displaced water seems to have sloshed back into the tunnels through the open doors, for the floor is not so deeply inundated as before.
At first it is difficult to distinguish the living elf from the dead that surround him. Thelydd finally picks out the shape of one intact pointed ear in the midst of several scorched zombies. Leon is lying on his back in six inches of dark water. For some inexplicable reason there's a cigarette bobbing beside the unconscious Aereni.
Thelydd shakes her head as she splashes to her knees beside him. She can see at a glance that he won't be walking out on the gory mess that is his right leg. His left forearm seems to have a bend in the middle of it where no bend should be. Heedless of her own discomforts, Thelydd begins to rapidly search through her pouches and belts for a health potion that is not turned to water, a healing wand that still has a charge left.
The couatl holds off the skeletons, occasionally smashing one, but the three remaining wraiths detatch themselves from the fight and hurry towards Arachan. He slowly lifts his staff again, and a wall of fire appears in front of him. One of the wraiths is unable to avoid the fire, and its shrouds go up in flame before it dissapears, wailing. The other two are able to avoid the wall, and extend their ghostly arms towards him. He throws out a hand, and magical darts of force strike one of the remaining wraiths, and it, too, disappears. The other has, at this point, closed the remaining distance, and grasps at Arachan's shattered arm. Arachan turns and glares at the wraith, a gaze that most would quail under. The wraith seems more surprised than afraid, but it is hard to tell, as in the next second its outline is rimmed with light, and in the next, the wraith has ceased to be.
As the last of the skeletons and wraiths are destroyed, Thelydd finds a single Wand of Cure Moderate Wounds that still has functioning charge. It's an old backup. There are only a couple of charges left.
"On the one 'and, you ain't gonna thank me for this, 'cause it's gonna hurt like a bastard when you wake up 'ealed 'alfway," she mutters to the unconscious elf, out of Arachan's hearing. "On the other 'and, I dunno if you're 'urt worse inside than out. Can't take the chance on you dyin' before we get back to the cleric's."
Thelydd flicks the wand savagely as she uses its few Cure charges on Leon. Red light blooms briefly around the inert form of the Aereni.
Arachan, his left arm now hanging by his side, drifts over to the others. He speaks slowly, and sounds tired. "If you two would get into the hallway, I'm sealing this place up before we go. Don't want to risk someone freeing it."
Leon's eyes slowly open as the darkness starts to come into a sort of focus. Pain washes over him and he lets out a long low moan. He looks down at his wretched leg and mumbles curses before Arachan and Thelydd come into focus. He sighs and tries to struggle up, but he is unable to put any weight on his injured leg or arm. He mumbles and sighs as his body falls into the cold water, it would be so nice to let the darkness wash over him and let this bloody event just be a foggy memory... but he knows he can't.
He mumbles more curses, most directed at 'the bloody necro' and pulls himself into an upward sitting position. Using his shield as a makeshift cane, digging it's pointed bottom into the rocks under the murky water, he somehow manages to stand and hobble forward a few steps before falling back on his bottom once more.
"Now, that ain't no way to talk," Thelydd says, listening to the volley of oaths directed at Arachan. "If you'd'a let 'im 'ave the duel - " She watches without apparent sympathy as Leon limps a few steps, then falls down again. " - You'd be standin' on your feet instead of fallin' on yer ass." Thelydd holds a hand out for Leon's good arm, offering to haul him upright.
"Brace yer good leg. I can prob'ly prop you long enough if you lean on me while you try'n walk."
Sparks still flicker around the edges of her vision, and her head aches abominably. It's not a bright valley, but it's one she has seen before. Thelydd waits patiently for Leon.
Leon mumbles and takes her hand, with the halfling's help he is able to get his light frame onto his good foot and hobble out slowly towards the ramp. Mumbling all along the two make a slow pace back up, luckily for Thelydd, like most elves, Leon is not very heavy, and his mithral full plate is designed to still allow him to keep light on foot. The slow progress puts them above the ramp, but Leon looks up the vertical shaft and mumbles a few fresh curses, knowing full well in his condition he isn't going up any such route.
Arachan chuckles slightly when Thelydd comments on Leon's condition. After making sure that both Thelydd and Leon are on their way back, Arachan pulls another wand out of his robes, and several meteor swarms batter the temple where the Banelord fell. Arachan walks over to the area, and seals it, first with a wall of iron, and then with a wall of stone. He then returns to the others. "When you are ready."
The halfling looks from Arachan to Leon and back. She's been able to support Leon thus far, but only just.
"I think right damn now works good for us, if it's all right by you," Thelydd says dryly.
ARACHAN: Arachan silently offers her his left arm. She takes it carefully, as if trying not to cause pain, though she does not appear visibly sympathetic. He speaks a word, and all appear in the street outside the residence of Xyries Chorster.