Module : none
NPCs: Loremaster Syle, Callam, Loab, Garl, Denaz.
It was time to get back. Denaz could not stop praising the heroes. It seemed that the old mercenary had come to accept their prowess in battle and he was all promises that should they ever need him the half-orc would be proud to fight by their side.
The heroes got some well earned rest, and a much needed bath. Battling a demon lord of bile and waste had been dirty business indeed. In the morning they were met by Herbert who informed them that although Donathos had left for other business thanking the party, the twins were now safe in the Home of the Blinding Light. The gnome also informed them that he had decided to stay back and catch up with the comings and goings in the town.
Callam and a continent of guards soon showed up inviting them to a breakfast session, courtesy of the town, and then a hastily organized meeting with three of the leaders of the town, the Arbiters. Realising that this also meant a face to face meeting with Wogan Pook the party could not wait long enough to get there.
Before the big meeting though another surprise awaited them. At the guard house where they were to have their rich breakfast Callam informed them that he had been dropped from the case and new people had been assigned to searching through Highmore’s tower for evidence. Anything that had already been discovered had been confiscated. Although he was being obvious that he could not divulge further information on these worrying developments, the young officer did pass on – secretly – what turned out to be one piece of evidence that wasn’t confiscated (or more likely that he had not allowed to be confiscated). The note turned out to be double-coded with the usage of many common and uncommon written languages and the party decided to revisit it later.
The meeting with the 3 Arbiters was as sour as expected. The Arbiter of Commerce was the neutral party that held the talks, the Arbiter of Justice was trying to be civil in the face of the Necromancer next to him and Pook was giving a lifetime performance of fake smiles and congratulatory speeches. The party left with a new title “Protectors of Wintershiven” and a badge that gave them free entrance and exit to the town as well as a 20% discount on all services and goods. Tempted as they were to attack Wogan there and then, in the end they deigned to play the civil roles required of them. Cirith received a formal invitation from the Arbiter of Justice to visit the old man’s castle; most probably due to their shared belief to Heironeous. News of the success in diplomatic talks with the dwarves was also confirmed, mainly due to the actions of the Arbiter of War who was to return within the next few days.
After the meeting though the party was forced to let Moonglam go. A group of clerics and druids required his assistance and without being allowed to reveal more the cleric of Beory asked the party to trust him and let him follow the men and women. The party could not disagree and they parted ways temporarily vowing to meet again.
Before deciding to leave for their long overdue visit south and their various tasks (like Cirith’s equally long overdue report to the Stillsqual guard) the party agreed to pay for some clerical assistance in deciphering the cryptic message. Indeed with a very cheap spell the final hidden characters were revealed and then the party easily puzzled out the second layer of this cryptic message. The contents were enough to make them change their plans once again and decide to stay in the north for a bit longer. Someone (who suspiciously signed with the letter W) was thanking Highmore for some exchange of information. It seemed that this someone had helped Highmore circumvent the problems of finding out about Urneil’s summoning ritual and the seven knights, something that could only be researched in the Loremaster’s library. And that same someone had also coaxed the decrepit half-elf to perform these hideous crimes in order “to avenge the wrongs of society and life” towards Highmore. What was more worrying was that in return Highmore had divulged the location of the burial place of one dubbed the Dark Knight. “W” claimed his hobgoblins were already there digging and laughed at the fact that the hiding place “was indeed as you had indicated; right under the dwarves’ nose!”
Changing their mind on not having involved Syle in this, the party met with the ancient elf and revealed all. This proved the right way to go as the sage’s wisdom and knowledge provided them with two more clues:
- Such information on Urneil could only have been found in the Mages Guild
- “Right Under The Dwarven Nose” and the sarcastic way the words were ridden made Syle realize that the burial place was none other than a memorial nearby Wintershiven (less than a day ride!)
The full history of the Dark Knight was also divulged to the heroes. It turned out that this was a ferocious Hobgoblin Leader who was more than a match for the local dwarven and human settlements. Through some dark power the Knight was nigh invincible and it was through the seven elven knights and their luminous blades that he was finally defeated. So evil was the power behind this creature’s strength that his burial place was supposedly never revealed by the seven, taking it to their graves. How Highmore had gotten hold of this information could only be speculated. Although the fact was that he was a direct descendant of one of the warriors and his family could have been keeping this secret. At the same time all clues pointed at Wogan and his newly acquired position as leader of the Mage’s Guild.
Without further delays the party left for this burial ground even though they were of split minds whether they should have informed someone about their discoveries and plans. They kept the argument on the road weighing their pros and cons when – about half an hour away from the outskirts of Wintershiven – they realized a lone rider was following and gaining on them.
When it was obvious the figure was pushing the black horse it rode to reach them the party also realized that the flowing clothing hinted at only one person: Wogan Pook. Not believing their eyes the four heroes formed a small semi circle on the road and demanded the Necromancer stops and explains himself.
Wogan, for indeed the figure was the Arbiter of Magic, Leader of the Guild of Mages, and sworn enemy of Lady Andolyn, simply dismounted and started approaching the party, uttering curses and threats about their imminent doom. Words were exchanged by both sides but it was obvious where this was heading and Regis would not let the spellcaster have the first hostile action.
His bow was the first to sing the song of war, and for a moment the battle seemed over before it started. The arrow was unbelievably well placed and pierced the heart of the man; or at least pierced the air were the displaced image of the man seemed to be. In a blurry moment of confusion the Necormancer’s formed shifted, now standing a foot or two away from where he seemed to be.
By then the rest of the party were quick to follow. Bolts swished the air but missed the inhumanly (and most certainly magically augmented) dexterous man who was fast approaching with a sinister smile. Nemen’s outstretched hand fired of two bolts of energy which unerringly struck the man, dissipating into nothingness. At the same instance though a phantasmal hand shot of the man as if in response to the elf’s spell. The hand grappled and squeezed the elven sorceress holding her immobile a few feet off the ground.
Not believing their eyes the two warriors charged Wogan. When Cirith drew his Greatsword though something surprising occurred. Wogan’s eyes grew wide in surprise, while the rubies that served as eyes in the dragonian shaped hilt flared red. Red also flared in the Paladin eyes as the half-elf was overtaken by a sense of rage and hatred and with screams and spittle he charged; surprising everyone of course who had never seen the man like that before. In the few seconds that this took though, Eman’s strides had already brought him within striking distance. The experienced fighter had forgone his shield, realizing that he would not get many chances to hit this foe. He had let the Flaming Luminous Blade bite into his hand and draw as much as it could of his life blood. With the blade now flaming he suddenly brought it high up, grasping it into two hands and brought it down in a slightly diagonal slicing arc, using his momentum to put power into the attack. The Necromancer had not calculated the man’s speed, reach or combat expertise and for some peculiar reason had seemed eager just to grasp the hems of his cloak and open it as if trying to reveal what was underneath. When Wogan’s mind realized Eman’s sword was too close for comfort it was too late. The human fighter’s blade cut a fiery swatch of anguish from the left shoulder to right calf! It was a clean cut like a hot knife through butter; nothing could pose any resistance to this tremendous blow that surely cleaved through bone and flesh!
For that usual moment where time stands still and seconds seem to last an eternity, both men stared at each other with wide eyes full of disbelief; both now coming to realize the true power of each other…
Wild eyed did Eman stare at the man before him! A man standing from a hit that would have downed any mortal humanoid perhaps even an Ogre. And his eyes only barely had time to register that the Necromancer’s flesh had a peculiar stony grey colour even in the insides where flesh and bones should have been slashed, bleeding and burned. Then he could not think any more as in response a beam shot out of the necromancer’s body hitting Eman square in the chest. The following seconds of anguish would stay with the man for years to come. His whole soul was forcefully sucked from his insides as if spectral claws grasped his being and flayed it out of his body! When the Luminous blade would suck through a small puncture some of the man’s blood, the pain and the feeling of wooziness lasted less than a second. This spell was drawing his inner being and seemed like a hundred times what the sword had felt.
Wild eyed did Wogan stare at the man before him. For this was only the second time in the last year that the Necromancer had tasted fear. His stoneskin spell could protect from most blows and bolts and no damage could come to him. And yet this man had hit him in such a way that a normal wizard – even one of Wogan’s might – would be lying dead. Now, Wogan had of course not come unprepared. Besides the stoneskin, and another spell that gave him feline nimbleness and his arsenal of magical items, he had gone even further. Casting Contigency spells on him he had prepared even for the lucky shot, so that the first spellcaster to hit him with magic would be incapacitated by one of the magical hands that were the trademark spell of that fat caricature of a wizard that was Bigby of the Circle of Eight. And the first stupidly-courageous warrior who would dare attack him would get an Enervation spell back to suck their life. And yet this human was now still alive and, using his fiery sword as a makeshift staff for balance, was slowly rising back to his feet. Pale as a white sheet but still alive.
With the cold hands of fear groping at his heart Wogan tried to finish what had once seemed as a faultless plan to scare these meddlesome amateurs back to Greyhawk. Extending his cloak’s edges he revealed the inscribed magical runes he always had prepared. Both were symbols of another era. Those who knew how to inscribe these symbols could inflict great woe upon their enemies. One was enough to decimate a small army; two were just showing off.
The symbol on his right sight flared with an angry red aura, and pain ravaged the bodies of his four adversaries. Their minds would be hard at task for them to continue their assault. At the same time the whirling symbol to his left side caught hold of Eman’s and Regis’ minds and the two fell asleep where they stood, their slumber punished with nightmarish wracks of pain as both symbols were still in effect. The elf and the half elf’s natural resistance blocked this effect. With Nemen struggling in the grasp of the magical fist this left the paladin in his unexplainable berserk state as the last combatant.
The man screaming reached Wogan and brought his greatsword down with anguish and madness in his now blooshot eyes. The Necromancer could only step back in disbelief as his magical protections were once again nothing before the sheer brute force he was met with. Another gashing wound bled freely from his belly which would have been fatal if not for his cat’s grace. With fear he realized that Gorgoldand’s will was in this sword and with pain he now knelt before the paladin as his mind was struggling to come up with a plan to escape alive!
He gazed up at the Paladin and screamed : “Look at your friends holy warrior! Won’t you help them in their pain and anguish?”
The words seemed to strike a chord in the half-elf’s heart and suddenly the madness that clouded his mind was lifted. But with logic returning to his thoughts the man simply stated:”Killing you will end their anguish forever.”
Wogan screamed and standing he took a step back and tried to cast a spell. He had miscalculated the huge blade that Cirith wielded though and once again his flesh was torn. With a body of stone now torn, burned and carved beyond belief the man fell down screaming once again…*”NO! I have defeated you! I have defeated YOU!”* his words were curiously directed at the blade and not the half elf who now stepped in to finish him. But now Cirith was no longer in the throes of the blinding rage and could well feel the pain of the magical symbol burning his tendons and muscles. This time the sword missed and with an inhuman spring Wogan was on his feet again going for the man’s throat.
With ominous words the Necormancer finished a dark spell and grasped Cirith’s neck even as Wogan’s flesh around his hand slowly turned ashen and brown as if it belonged to a decomposing corpse. The rot immediately took hold of the paladin’s neck and his veins bulged with his blood turning black. This lasted for only few moments as the spell could not infect the pure body of the holy warrior. Like an avatar of the ArchPaladin Heironeous Cirith kicked with fury the Necromancer away and speared him with the greatsword, cleanly impaling him. Dragging the huge sword back he gasped for air trying to fight the waves of dizziness and pain. He had to find the strength inside him to look after his wounded friends.
Alas! His heart froze in disbelief as instead of the thumb of a lifeless body he heard spellcasting coming from Wogan. The man was still alive! Cirith open his eyes.
Wogan finished the spell before the Paladin had time to bring the greatsword down on him again. Even on his knees the evil man touched the earth and a wave of magic spread out. Suddenly yellow fumes started seeping from the earth and Wogan laughed in madness. He had lost all sense of logic now…
“This is a Cloudkill spell Paladin. And this is your dilemma… Within seconds it will kill your friends and you if you tarry in it. But if you do stay you can finish me off…cough cough…What say you? Rid this world of my …evil…gah…with the cost of your loved ones lives…Cough…Or save them and let me live?”
Blood was now spurting out of his mouth with each cough and the Necromancer knew he did not have much time. The spell was already affecting him too.
This time Cirith could not bring himself to finish it. He could feel the caustic fumes already eating through his flesh and draining his strength. A quick gaze at the struggling form of Nemen and the squirming bodies of Eman and Regis caught in both symbol’s effects did not leave him with any choice. He struggled to first clear the two men out who stood no chance to avoid the deadly spell.
With the corner of his eyes he caught sight of Wogan’s form throwing something to the ground and the sound of a breaking crystal followed. Something flashed and Wogan jumped into this flash and was gone!
It took hours for the party to regain their strength. But with the magic gone it was now as if this had never happened. Their scared horses were found and returned and the only remnant of this struggle was the punctures in Eman’s hand from his sword’s teeth.
And then it dawned them – there was no evidence of this fight ever happening…!