A Cyclops, Seven Wraiths, a Lich and a Funeral
The meeting had been met and the battle had been fought. The officers and other ranks of the fledgling revolutionary army were united once again. Where else would they meet but the old Green Dragon Inn in the heart of downtown Tradetown? They were discussing their next move.
"I think it is generally agreed that we should settle accounts with the Cyclops” said Gul. Everyone nodded in agreement.
"I think it is also agreed that a more direct approach should be taken.” More nodding and drunken grunts of approval.
"We will need a tracker. Does anyone in our party possess that ability?” Gul looked from one blank face to another. "Oh dear!”
They hurriedly made up a poster and pinned it to the door of the inn.
(Dwarves and wimps will not be considered)
Within a paragraph there were two applicants for the position. One was a strange looking creature and the other was a tiefling, trying to hide his horns beneath a cap.
"How’s your tracking?” Gul enquired of the tiefling (who will be referred to as ‘Clint’ from now on as he had no name).
"I’m one the best trackers in the area and my human colleague here is the other.”
"Yes”, the human backed Clint up "we are fully paid up members of the Tradetown Trackers Guild. My name is Jason Arrowind, incidentally.”
"And you can call me Clint” added the tiefling.
"We are off to fight the Cyclops currently rampaging through the local countryside” said Gorlab. "Are you up to the task?”
"I believe we are” answered Jason.
"Yes, we can track a snow leopard in a blizzard or a mouse on a stone floor” put in Clint.
Brun Casta said: "Are we all agreed that we should take these two worthy woodsmen into our little band?”
Again, heads moved up and down in acquiescence. "Welcome our new friends!”
As everyone fell to drinking and talking amongst themselves the two newcomers smiled knowingly at one another. Jason leaned toward Clint and whispered conspiratorially "We got away with that didn’t we?”
"Aye” said the other "I couldn’t find my way here this evening and I’ve lived in Tradetown for six months.” They laughed and enjoyed their evening.
Brun was with his companions.
"Before we do anything else we must hold Berun’s funeral ceremony at twilight tomorrow.”
Gorlab nodded. "And that bitch of a cleric will be sacrificed. The Lady Zarae will light the pyre” he said drunkenly. "Then we’ll have a celebratory feast to Berun’s memory.”
"I will attend the funeral, as Vhaeraun requires, but I cannot attend the feast” said Gul. "I may be a callous, self centred, glory seeking Drow, but I’m no hypocrite.” He laughed inanely at his own humour. The others just looked at each other and sighed.
"I never liked Berun.”
"Careful, General,” said Gorlab "You speak of my battle brother. Please, be respectful.”
Brun, ever the diplomat, intervened:
"Come my Drow comrades; don’t spoil this night’s revels with disharmony. Save your fighting spirit for the Cyclops, or better still the coming struggle with the servants of Lolth.”
The two Drow clinked glasses and toasted each other reluctantly.
The next day dawned and preparations were made for the funeral. Under Brun’s watchful eye a funeral pyre was constructed and bales of dry straw arranged around it. A stake was fixed to it to which the Lolth cleric captured in Sorcerak would be tied. Brun spent the rest of the day purifying the area and readying himself to conduct the ceremony.
At last, with all prepared, twilight approached. A fire was lit and Berun’s body was solemnly carried and laid on the pyre. The Lolth cleric was dragged, naked, to the stake by Bayhl and Zarae. She snarled loudly at the assembled Drow.
"May the curse of Lolth fall on you, bringing ruin to your plans, pain to your bodies and eternal torment to your souls! Rot in whatever hell you are sent to. Heretics, heretics!”
A swift blow from Gorlab shut her up and she was tied, struggling, to the stake. The company ringed the pyre; all carrying a lighted torch. Lady Zarae stepped forward and took a burning brand from the fire. Circling the pyre she touched the straw in several places with the brand. Soon the flames were licking around Berun’s body and the female cleric began to pray to Lolth. Her prayers gave way to screams of agony as she was consumed by the fire. The company watched, unmoved by her plight, ignoring her cries of pain. Brun offered up a prayer to Vhaeraun.
"Lord, receive the soul of your servant Berun, a valiant warrior and true Drow. We burn his body and release his spirit. The body is but a vessel but the spirit is precious so we commend it to your care. Maybe he will become one of your demons? Accept, also, this sacrifice we offer. We hope that it will show that we are true and faithful followers, deserving of your support and protection. Hail the Masked Lord.”
"Hail the Masked Lord” the watchers repeated.
The company then walked around the funeral pyre and each threw their torch into the flames. Their shadows were cast eerily across the ground and seemed to perform a grotesque dance as the flames reached higher and higher into the night sky.
All but Gul attended the funeral feast.
The following morning Gul, Brun, Gorlab, Haart, Clint and Jason set off to find the Cyclops’s lair. The Lady Zarae approached Gul.
"I wish to accompany you, if I may. My loyalty to the group has been called into question. I want the chance to prove myself.”
Gul considered and, despite misgivings, said: "Very well, come. Be under no illusions, though, you are being tested.”
They flew to where they had last seen the ogres and the two trackers looked around for signs. Eventually, after much deliberation and consultation, they seemed to have the scent. For what seemed like an hour (actually it was four hours) the group wandered aimlessly, blindly following Clint and Jason. Brun and Gul came to the conclusion that they were lost.
"Are you two sure you know where we are?” asked Gul.
"Absolutely” replied Jason.
"We’re almost there” put in Clint.
"No we’re not, we’re lost” Brun asserted.
Jason and Clint had to admit their deception and come clean about not really being trackers. The adventurers made their way back to the starting point and began to look again for tracks. This time it was Brun and Gorlab who found them. Either by design or accident they led the party on the right path with Sue the pseudo dragon fluttering ahead of them.
The way led to a cave set in the side of a hill covered in undergrowth. Sue spotted an ogre guarding the entrance. It was at this point that Haart revealed that he had tracking skills.
"Why didn’t you say so earlier?” said Gul giving him a slap.
"I was having such a good time watching those two make idiots of themselves” he replied. Haart glared at Gul, not pleased at being humiliated in front of the others. Gul glared back as if daring Haart to start something.
"I’ll put the guard to sleep then we’ll move quietly to the entrance” whispered Gul. The ogre slipped to the ground and they crept carefully forward, Sue again flying ahead. She had a peek in the passage but could see nothing. Brun blessed the party just in case they met anything nasty. Haart was the first to reach the sleeping ogre and silently dispatched it with his dagger. Clint was next and he proceeded to search the dead body but found nothing, at least that’s what he told the rest.
Gul and Haart led the way as the group slowly walked down the corridor eventually coming to a large cavern. It smelled of Ogre! Gul and Haart sneaked closer and in the corner of the cavern they saw seven sleeping ogres and one on guard. They each cast a ‘Sleep’ spell and the ogres were unconscious. Quickly everyone moved in and Gul and Haart killed three each of the sleeping creatures while Brun and Jason dealt with the other two. Meanwhile Sue was scouting the rest of the cavern and round a corner she found the Cyclops and three of his ogre allies. The Cyclops let out a scream and moved to attack. The ogres followed their leader into the fight.
Haart put two of them down with another ‘Sleep’ spell and Gul attacked the third, badly wounding it. He could sense a kill and prepared to give the coup de grace. Gorlab, however, was too quick and he got the kill. Gul let out a cry of frustration. The Cyclops then leapt over both Gul and Gorlab and attacked Gorlab from behind but missed its mark. Clint cast ‘Mirror Image’ on himself and four more tieflings appeared.
Gul, Brun, Gorlab and Clint rained blows on the Cyclops, the latter from behind, and Haart loosed an arrow at the giant creature. The Cyclops was visibly hurting but managed to attack Clint. An image disappeared. Jason fired an arrow, missing the Cyclops but almost hitting Clint. Gul raised his sword, struck home and had the Cyclops near to death. Brun moved in and made the decisive hit. The Cyclops lay dead. Gul let out a cry of frustration. Gorlab and Clint, meanwhile, killed the remaining two sleeping ogres. They then set about looting the bodies.
Haart took a bag the Cyclops had been carrying and plundered its contents. Gul took the Cyclops’s boots but deemed them too big and threw them aside. Brun, however, picked them up and, having removed his own footwear, tried them on. They shrank instantly and fitted him perfectly. He became the proud owner of a pair of ‘Boots of Leaping’. Gul let out a cry of frustration. "Not your day, is it General” said Gorlab with relish. Gul just sulked and said nothing. Gorlab began rummaging around amongst a pile of rubbish and old rags in one corner of the cavern. He shouted triumphantly "A chest!” Upon opening it he found lots of gold pieces. Gul then had an idea. He rushed over to the Cyclops and began hacking its eye out. "I’m going to get something out of this” he said "This eye is useful for sorcery.” Gorlab cut the head off their victim and they went back to Tradetown.
Arriving at their destination they headed straight for Gygax’s headquarters where they were met by an administrator. They threw the head at the administrator’s feet. "This Cyclops won’t be attacking anymore caravans and we claim our reward” Gul exclaimed. The administrator could not argue and gave them the 6000GP.
They rested to recover their strength and for the mages among them to replenish their manna. After a few days they were ready to set off on another adventure. The question was, where? Brun and Gorlab came up with the perfect answer.
"I have heard tell,” said Brun, "that this group left a dungeon with a level still to be explored.”
"Very true, I had forgotten that” Gul replied. "I vaguely remember where it is. I’m sure if we fly over the area I’ll be able to find it.”
"Rumour has it that a Demi-Lich rules those caverns” Gorlab warned.
"Ha! An opportunity for some clerical muscle flexing, and I don’t mean scribing or filing.” Brun was excited by the prospect of facing undead opponents.
They flew off and soon Gul began to recognise the area. The dungeon became visible below them. What looked like a group of goblins was milling around the entrance. Something about them unsettled Clint and he studied them more closely.
"They’re zombies” he said. "Let’s cut out any possibility of error and land the ship on top of them.” Before Brun could protest the ship had landed and there were some very flat zombies underneath it.
"I could’ve handled them” said Brun, disappointed at missing his chance of some experience.
"I dare say there’s more where they came from.” Gul consoled the cleric. "I believe we can get as far as the second level down a vent somewhere around here.”
After a little searching they found it and climbed down to the second level. They followed a passageway with Sue on point duty, as usual. Eventually it led to a room and Sue indicated that there was a skeleton guarding the door, the entrance to the third level. The group carefully moved forward until they could make out to red eyes glaring at them through the darkness. Suddenly Gorlab was heard to say quietly "A triceratops, why are you thinking of a triceratops my sweet?”
A few steps further and the reason became apparent. There before them stood an undernourished triceratops. Brun immediately blessed the party and Gorlab cast ‘Haste’. Boldly, Jason Arrowind attacked first and wounded the beast, quickly followed by Gul, Clint and Haart. The dinosaur turned on Jason and took its revenge for the wound he had inflicted. He staggered back, protecting himself behind his shield. Gul stepped in to protect him and smote the creature with a mighty stroke. Brun attacked but it was Gorlab who got the killing blow and the triceratops collapsed with a rattle of bones. Gul let out a cry of frustration.
They rested for a few minutes and Brun used the time to heal Jason. When they were ready they continued on into the darkness moving through a room, down some stairs and into another room. There was a door with a sculpted mouth above it. Gul tried talking to it but there was no response. Gorlab went to open the door and the others stepped back, wary of any traps that may have been waiting to be triggered. There were no traps, but the mouth spoke, saying "I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Behind the door was a corridor. Sue spotted gold pieces lying on the floor and flew down to pick them up. As she rummaged around, spikes sprang up out of the floor and injured her. A trap and a long corridor filled with them no doubt. The two thieves took the lead and began to search. Carefully they moved around the spikes and were about to walk into another trap when Gorlab warned them of a trip wire in front of them. "Are you two sure you’re qualified to do this?”
"Yes, yes” they said. "We’ll soon disable it, hang on.” On they hung, but neither Clint nor Jason could figure out how it worked.
It fell to Gul to make the trap safe. "Lucky we didn’t walk into that, there’s a circular saw at about waist height in there!”
They continued on in trepidation. What would happen next? The question was soon answered as a block of stone swung down from the roof, just missing Sue.
"That thing will kill us all sometime” said Gul angrily.
Gorlab was quick to defend his pet. "That’s the pseudo dragon I love you’re talking about.” The two Drow glared at each other.
Clint held up his hand "Careful, there’s a pressure pad here.”
Jason knelt down to help his fellow thief to deal with this new problem. Unfortunately they were as successful as a chocolate teapot and flames spurted up from under the floor singeing the two hapless fellows. Jason was well done but Clint was only rare. More trouble was ahead as Clint tripped yet another trap and a huge hand appeared and tried to grab him. He managed to dodge its grasp and stepped deftly out of its way. Gul took a swing at the hand with his sword but his blade passed through without effect. Gorlab attempted to run past but the hand was too quick and grabbed him. It held him in a vice like grip and slowly began to crush him. "Do something!” he cried. "Does anyone have ‘Dispel Magic’?” No reply. "Try a ‘Knock’ spell,” said Gul. Zarae cast the spell and the hand’s grip loosened enough for Gorlab to wriggle free.
They moved on without further mishap until they encountered yet another door. There was a simple, unequivocal inscription on the lintel written in Drow:
Again, a carved mouth was also apparent. As the party inspected the door, trying the handle and checking for traps, the mouth spoke:
"Prepare to enter the Chamber of the Seven Wraiths. No one has survived this ordeal and those who have faltered now fill the ranks of the undead.”
The usual protocols were observed as Brun blessed the party and Gorlab cast ‘Haste', on them. In addition Brun used his clerical powers to protect them all from evil. Then our heroes opened the door and moved in, Haart and Clint leading the way. It was pitch black and very little could be seen. Like children wearing their parents’ shoes they shuffled across the room until they came to another door. This, in turn, opened into another corridor which ended at a set of double doors. Everyone was dismayed to find that it had taken them so long to get this far that the protective spells had worn off. The doors were checked for traps. "Are they cursed?” said Haart. "If they are, that’s my department” laughed Gul. In his usual cavalier fashion, he threw the doors open. Phew! No curse.
Before them was a room containing seven pillars arranged in a 2-3-2 formation. There was, surprise surprise, a door in the opposite wall. They waited with baited breath for something to happen. Wraiths emerged from two of the pillars. Brun stepped forward and, brandishing the sign of Vhaeraun, confronted them with these words: "Be gone foul creatures, back to your graves where you belong.” The wraiths hesitated for a split second before disappearing, shrieking in anger at the cleric. Five more appeared, one of which suffered the same fate as his brethren, but four continued to advance on the party. Brun and Gul were the first to engage them. One fell to Gul’s blade but the other managed to wound Brun, sending a cold chill through him as it drained his life force. The other two flew at Zarae and Gorlab, both of whom were wounded. Haart loosed an arrow at the wraiths, but it had no effect. Gul cast ‘Fly’ on himself, meaning to go to Gorlab and Zarae’s aid. Brun, however, pre-empted him. Despite his wound, he once again raised the sign of Vhaeraun and bade the creatures be gone. The three remaining wraiths could not resist the power of Brun’s faith and they too disappeared.
The party again rested to regroup and heal those in need. Having healed himself, Brun asked if anyone else was wounded. Both Zarae and Gorlab sought help. Gorlab and Brun haggled over the price and finally agreed that 6000GP was adequate. Zarae had to remain unhealed. "Let her suffer” said Gul. He was not in a forgiving mood as far as the Lady Zarae was concerned. She had come to show her loyalty but so far had done very little except free Gorlab from the magic hand. They checked out the room but found nothing. Suddenly a slithering noise could be heard coming from the corridor. A purple worm filled door way and the party once more faced a fight. Gul prepared a fireball, Jason aimed an arrow and Gorlab readied a lightning bolt. The others drew their weapons and waited.
The creature came towards them under a hail of arrows and fire, Gul causing most of the damage with his fireball. The huge worm reared up in front of Gorlab, attempting to swallow him, but he survived. Jason sent another arrow hurtling at the monster. The missile hit its mark and the beast fell to the ground. Gul let out a cry of frustration. Unfortunately, Gorlab was underneath the purple worm when it fell, and he was trapped. "Help me someone” he pleaded. Gul sauntered over to the worm and slowly removed its poison sack. "Did I hear someone calling?” "Stop ponsing around and help me.”
Gul eventually stopped taunting Gorlab and dug him out of his predicament. The two glared at each other, the enmity between them almost tangible.
They were all exhausted after these encounters and so decided to camp where they were. They manhandled (Drowhandled?) the worm’s corpse into the doorway to block it and stop any potential intruders. The night passed peacefully enough but during Clint and Haart’s watch something began chewing on the dead body. Clint shook Gul awake and informed him of the situation. "Leave it,” he said "it’ll go away, whatever it is.” With that he turned over and went back to sleep.
The next day, refreshed and eager, they went through the next door, down yet another corridor and up to double steel doors. Above was the legend:
A Curse On Those Who Would Enter Bearing Arms
It was again in the Drow language. They tried the doors but they were locked. Gul took his weapons off and tried again, but with the same result. A ‘Knock’ spell cast by Gul did the trick and the crew entered what appeared to be a large audience chamber. There was a dais at the other side upon which was an ornate but rotted chair. A figure, that on closer scrutiny turned out to be a lich, sat on the chair. A pile of bones writhed and clattered on the stone floor in front of the dais. The party disgustedly realised that the pile was skeletons simulating an orgy.
Without hesitation Gul let loose a fireball, destroying the skeletal debauchery and wounding the lich. Jason fired an arrow but missed. Brun bravely charged at the lich but failed to hit it. Gorlab cast the obligatory ‘Haste’ spell on the party and Clint cast ‘Mirror Image’ on himself. Finally Haart enchanted his sword. The lich rose from the dais. Brun and Clint managed to land blows but were unsure if they had inflicted any damage. Unable to engage with the lich they both sought safety through an unlocked door but not before Brun was hit by a lightning bolt. Jason once again fired an arrow but to no effect. Gul, not wishing to kill his comrades, shot a well aimed lightning bolt and hit the lich which let out a howl of pain. Haart’s arrow also missed and the lich retaliated.
A fireball exploded in the midst of the party. Only Gul and Gorlab were left standing and both were short on manna. In a final attempt to kill the lich Gul could only summon the power to hurl a magic missile. The lich swayed and rocked, obviously in trouble. It only took a magic missile from Gorlab to finish the job. The undead creature collapsed. Gul let out a cry of frustration. He drew his sword and went off on one.
"Where’s that accursed lizard?” Sue lay smoking on the ground. "I hate that creature; I’ll kill it if I can. I must kill something. I’ve been thwarted at every turn. It’s not fair. Every time! I practically destroy a monster then someone comes along to poach it, and not in boiling water.”
"Calm down” soothed Gorlab in his best Michael Winner manner. "Your time will come, eventually. Don’t take it personally.”
Gradually Gul regained his composure and the two set about saving their comrades while Brun and Clint came out of the library. "Is it safe?”
"Yes, come in” said Gul sheepishly. "I just had a nasty turn but I’m alright now.”
They set about searching for things of value and collected them together. Clint found a staff on the lich. It gave an advantage in combat and had more necrotic properties but no one could fathom the specifics. Brun had also found a case in the library.
"It looks like it could hold a wand. It’s the right shape and size” said Haart.
Gul opened it as the others kept well back. It was not booby trapped and inside there was indeed a wand. After careful investigation the wand turned out to be of Earth magic and allowed control of earth elementals.
"Surely that can’t be it” said Gorlab "Let’s look around for secret doors or panels.”
They all set about the task and found a secret door in the library which opened after Zarae cast ‘Knock’. There was a small chest which was booby trapped but Jason, for once, was able to disable it. They found gold pieces in bags. The room also contained a painting of a demon, magically lit to enhance the beauty of the piece.
"That’s worth a lot of money, I think” said Haart "I seem to remember references to it in old tomes.”
They took it anyway and made off with their booty. They made it back to the ships and Tradetown meeting only a draconian patrol on the way. The painting turned out to be worth 50,000GP much to their delight.
A few days later a Beastman appeared at their camp and invited them all to a feast to celebrate the recent victory over the goblins.