Faster than one would expect, Dobbs leaped on the remaining beast and dispatched it with his staff. At the same time, however five glowing missiles fired from the old man into the beast. A sixth missile just missed Dobbs hands and burned into the old oak of his staff.
"Let me introduce myself," started Bolt. "My name is Bolt, I am the leader of this group of adventurers. You do not appear to be a local inhabitant. Ummm . . . could you give us directions? We are looking for the court of the adjudicator. He passed this way?
As he said this Dev slowly circled around the back side of the old man. Florimund spoke up, "Friend Bolt, perhaps this strange wizard has information that we may find of value."
As Bolt and Florimund spoke with the stranger, the rest of the party cleaned up and bandaged their wounded friends. Dobbs spoke quietly, saying something about a "galoot", as he started to bandage up the the fallen beast man. Korg then lifted Phth over his great shoulders.
The man introduced himself as the Green Wizard. He said that he had been imprisoned years ago in the region by the adjudicator for trying to steal the lungs of a dragon from the tunnels beneath the thrown of Kata in the village of Kro. The story seemed all together plausible, but Bolt realized from the broken story and dated details of his homeland in Grayhawk that if he was from Oreth, he must have lived there more than a hundred years ago.
The group walked down the road towards Kro. Before long they had traveled nearly a league and were ready to make camp after a long day of walking. Dev tried to ask the wizard why he had never left. Instead, he heard again the entire story of how he was unable to take the lungs of the dragon and how the rust monsters reminded him of very large ant eaters. He had heard of a place far away, down unda, where there lived animals famous for eating ants. He had also heard of a land of Undas.
As the stars came out and the party finished their rations, Phth started to come around. The smell of the smoke against his sweaty body made a putrid odor that flared his nostrils as his eyes shot wide open. "Me hungry, where snack?"
Even Anterbach was somewhat relieved to see the green thing moving around and before long the group had divided up into shifts and gone to sleep. As Dev watched out from his perch in a Fundling tree, he saw a shooting star dart out across the sky. As it crossed the dome of the world, it dripped golden fire. In a whisper that he screamed with all of his soul, he cried, "Where are you? Where do I go?"
As he lay sleeping, Bolt dreamed of fire in the sky.
The party moved on towards the village. The road came out of the hills and entered in a small village that was dotted with golden grasses and brown Fundling trees. Along the side of the road, the party soon came upon an old run down house with a dried up well in front. Korg was elected to take point and step into the shack and it was he who first saw the side of the Ghast and two Ghouls that had decided to spend part of their afterlife here.
Ghouls! Dev breathed the word He unleashed his blade and quickly stepped into the nearest beast. As its body was instantly impaled on the metal, it spit out a filthy lemon and green gunk that spewed out and hit Bolts boots. Phth's two handed sword slashed the first Ghoul in two and as the second Ghoul started to backup for fear as Anterbach pulled out his symbol, Dev slashed again and pulled off its head and much of its upper torso.
The creatures in slimy parts on the floor, Bolt quickly looked around the broken down building. It was a one room building with one wooden 7' tall door on the south, the door they has used for their entrance, and two smaller, rather nice, oaken doors in the center of the northern wall. The rock walls were crumbling and it was obvious that due to the small nature of this room, both northern doors must lead outside. On the eastern wall was a table with a piece of gray parchment and the limbs of some humanoid. They had been chewed on for a while and both flesh and bone showed the scrapes of the undead teeth.
The western wall was empty save for a small window with an imitation sunset painted on it. In the North east corner, just a few paces from the table, a 3' by 3' by 7' long plain wooden chest lay pushed against the wall. It appeared to be the type of a box used to bury paupers. Three iron spikes were nailed half way through the cover of it. Two shiny brass hinges were on the other side. A leather strap served as a handle.
Hanging from the ceiling was a skull with a candle glowing brightly. One eye orange, and one eye yellow, it seemed to hold a stoic laugh as it looked down on the party.
Evening was quickly approaching as Dobbs, ever curious just had to take a look at the light fixture of a skull. "Why Ben Franklin would wonder about that," he said as he took out his silver plated L shaped fire stick and started to poke what he called the barrel into the orange eye socket.
As if fearing another Dobbian explosion of sorts, Bolt moved to the far corner of the room with the wooden chest. Inspecting it as best he could for traps, the swordsman found that it was made of some of the old pine. As Anterbach approached with a small iron tool and began playing with the antique lock, Bolt stepped back a few feet. "You know, I knew this guy named Dean once and you just couldn't find a chest or treasure around this guy without . . . "
Bolt's little story was interrupted by a puff of gray dust as Anterbach safely opened the lid of the box and with a bit of awe whistled at the chips of platinum and gold he saw inside. "I don't believe it, it must be an illusion," Dev said from behind his half sized colleague. To his amazement, however, the treasure was real.
Korg, not sure where to go, drew his sword and looked back to cover the entrance. If there was treasure here, someone would no doubt be coming for it. As he turned around he saw that the western wall window no longer contained an imitation sunset. Now he saw a white frozen landscape and a large beast running across it. That beast was Jorik.
Anterbach was finding a large amount of treasure in the chest. A great amount of silver and gold was coming out of the chest an an unusual amount of platinum. As the thief continued to pull out coins, he began to wonder just how much the box could hold.
Bolt and Phth walked by Dobbs as he continued to play with the skull. It appeared to be nothing more than a light fixture. It was made of brass and it had two colored candles in each socket.
The table with the parchment and half eaten body parts and the oaken doors had still not been investigated when Anterbach, having taken out most of the coins from the box, yelled for assistance. Rushing over, the party looked down into the box and saw that on the wooden bottom of the box, a black shadow of a creature was forming. It seemed to be slowly painting itself to the bottom of the box. "Isn't it interesting", Florimund said as he glanced outside, "notice how the black shadow grows darker as the sun is quickly setting outside."
"It is as though the dark shadow is part of the coming nightfall," Florimund continued. Anterbach, feeling the new coins growing icy cold in the bag at his side, stepped back from the wooden box as the shadow became more opaque and took on a humanoid form.
Looking at the brass skull hanging from the ceiling, Dobbs was just too curious. He used his staff to reach up and unhook the brass light fixture. Palming the 9" round skull, he noticed how the inside was covered with melted wax. Still warm from use, it cast a ghoulish set of eyes momentarily on his hands as he rolled it around noticing the excellent workmanship. The brass artwork was definitely of some value and he was very impressed at how much light was released from such small eye sockets. When hanging, the skull made some of the most marvelous shadows across the room. Dobbs made sure that the candles were out and then secured the item in his backpack.
The ancient man who called himself the Green Wizard sat on the front porch and mumbled a few words about needing to find a library. "Every person imprisoned by a Jar Spell must be recorded in a library on the plane of confinement. Find your dad," he repeated. Soon his snoring was louder then the words escaping his tired lips.
Dev had positioned himself by the wooden table and was looking over the words scrawled across the gray parchment. In an old form of Flavian, it read "The ancient Wyrm was black and when it left the material world, its reign began a new in the negative material world." Then the writing changed to an ancient magical form that was beyond the Ranger's understanding. He could make out, however, the Common words "isle, ancient, breath, and spell."
Behind the Ranger, Bolt and Phth also investigated the items on the table. Bolt found a black leather pouch, which contained several marbles made out of what appeared to be glass with small scales cast deep inside. The magical properties were obvious and he stepped outside to closely examine the small treasures.
Phth had looked at the bones next to the paper and the teeth marks had made him very hungry. He followed Bolty, walked outside and sat on a dirt mound that appeared to be a burial. Struck by the oddness of a cemetery in an afterworld, Phth realized that the world was not nearly as smart as him. Uncharacteristically, he crossed his huge legs and immediately fell asleep.
Bolt examined the odd marbles. Deciding to use some of his magical abilities, he cast a detect magic spell. A powerful aura began emanating from each unit. The light was orange but had a dark black core. The scales animated under the detection spell as miniature black dragons and the glass appeared to be restraining a strong explosive power. There were eight of these balls and each appeared identical.
Back in side, Korg was not sure what to make of the window that reflected his companion Jorik running through the snow. He repeatedly looked out the front door to confirm that the evening was quickly approaching on a warm gray Fall afternoon with the temperature in the mid 60s. The giant man rubbed his chin with his massive right hand. The air was turning cold. He could feel it. Instinctively, he tightened his grip on the two-handed-sword that he wielded as a mere long sword. Looking to the table he saw that Dev too was growing uncomfortable and his shinning blade was already in hand.
Anterbach had begun tossing out the freezing coins on the floor as the humanoid shadow took form. Korg was the first to realize that creature was a Vampiric Lich. The undead mage's eyes were glowing the same off set colors as the brass light fixture, which Dobbs had claimed. Quiet was what drew the science minded cowboy's attention to the pine box.
Florimund stuttered, "I think we have a new story for my memoirs here, Bolt, PHTH, would you two get in here?"
Anterbach began retreating even before he had turned around. His smaller sized legs showed remarkable dexterity as he charged with all speed towards the door. Dobbs similarly decided that retreat might be the smarter part of valor and headed south by way of the snoozing Green Mage and gave the old man a quarter staff based poke as he exited the door.
Bolt quickly ran around the outer western wall looking for the window that should lie directly behind the undead creature but found only an old broken down rock wall without any opening in sight. Frustrated with this unproductive use of time, he quickly scanned around the walls looking for anything that might give him an advantage. Unfortunately, he could find nothing that offered help.
Korg feeling the cold metal in his hand charged the undead monster. Wielding the weapon masterfully he made two consecutive swings that both should have decapitated any normal creature and yet returned only a wish of air as the blade swung near the beast.
Magic filled the air and the creatures eyes turned amber, then dark brown, and then black. Its bony hand reached to a faded leather pouch at its side as it pulled out a long brown twig about nine inches in length. With a snap of its wrist, blue lightning fired from the wand and nailed the chest of Dev. The hold person spell froze the ranger's limbs in place as his neck arched in pain.
Upon leaving the front door, the kender pulled out his deity's symbol and began casting a bless spell. Dobbs picked up a rock and made a perfect toss hitting the sleeping half gnoll on the back of the head. The ugly green man awoke immediately and turned towards the door with a sneer punctuated by a deep and rancid burp.
Putrid flesh dripped off of the bony creature as it turned its wand towards the door. A flash of azure light shot towards the door and bounced off of the old wood. The hinges rattled as the bolt passed harmlessly through.
Florimund dove behind the table on the eastern wall and began to look through his papers trying desperately to find a scroll or weapon that might be able to improve the party's chances against the arcane spirit.
Korg continued to swing his blade. Light radiated off the sword as each thrust appeared to tear into the creature's rotten flesh. Then with a magical swish, the blade only returned air. Try as he did, the sword could not hit the creature.
Dev felt feeling return to his hands. As the hold person spell broke, he could see the dead eyes of the Lich that it was starting to cast another spell.
Bolt continued around the back side of the building and found that there were no doors. The back side held the same old dry brick walls that had been on the western windowless outer wall. Frustrated, Bolt raced around the eastern wall looking for someway into the room.
Phth raced into the front door and pulled out his two handed weapon.
Fire from the dead:
The beast took full form as it levitated a few feet from the dilapidated sarcophagus. With a gruesome mouth that expelled a most noxious odor it started to chant a deep arcane rhythm. With one hand still clenched to its wand, the other bony hand reached to its belt and withdrew a ghostly blue, two-foot long, needle like dagger from its belt.
The Green Mage looked puzzled. Was he sleeping? "Ancient Magic," he whispered. The old man then just murmured sounds to himself as Anterbach began fiercely looking about the burial grounds. Bolt continued to run around the building looking for another way inside. As he passed the back wall he found no sign of the doors that were so clearly visible from within.
Dobbs and Phth raced towards the crypt. Dev's muscles visibly tearing themselves apart, the Ranger forced his body to step and then step again and then break free of the curse. With incredible determination he willed himself towards the monster.
Korg swung his blade three times at the creature. As his blade continued to grab a hold of the crisp night air, all he succeeded in doing was convincing the ethereal beast to swing its blue blade towards him instead of its other new targets.
It appeared Florimund's luck was improving. Beneath the table he found several scrawled and torn up pieces of parchment. Scanning the pages quickly, the Illusionist shouted out, "The domain of Antillies the Liar Mage, Trust not that you really killed me with that stake, trust not that silly crown, and trust not these pages so innocently prepared_ ". The gnome's voice ended with a quick and fiery orange explosion from the explosive runes that ambushed the unready reader.
As the storyteller under the table fell silent, Phth arrived just in time to receive a blast of magical missiles. As all of the fighters missed their targets, Korg received a piercingly cold blow to his abdomen. The creature's long dagger felt like an icicle as it dug deep within the giant-man's armor.
Stepping back in agony, Korg knelt by the half-gnome and offered a quick bandage to halt the orange blood from seeping out onto the wooden floor. Dev charged the beast and took two quick swings at its head. He missed twice.
Bolt made some gestures from his position outside the broken down shack and light raced from his palm and targeted the ghastly yellow eyes of the beast. It swung around momentarily blinded before quickly snapping his fingers and dispelling the magic.
With a blast of fowl air, the skull opened and laughed, its eye sockets continued to flash shadowy dark hues. Once again, its bony hand used the long brown twig and snapped its wrist. This time a fireball shot out at the ranger and again hit its target in the chest. Fire erupted in a flash that burned deep into the flesh of the fighter.
Racing from crumbling tomb stone to the next with holy water in hand, Anterbach tried to remember the last words of the Illusionist. Catching on, Dobbs backed away from the dead mage and yelled out "Forget the spirit, find the remains! Quick, help Anterbach dig!" He ran towards the door, obviously betraying his new plan.
As Dobbs moved towards the Door, the Lich followed in pursuit. His blade burning in his blistered hands, Dev charged again at the back side of the mage and scored "first blood" with a swing that broke through its magical armor and slashed through to the Lich's clavicle.
Angrily, the Lich used his wand again and shot forth a green pea sized missile that shot across the room and painlessly pierced Dobbs skin and transformed him instantly into a golden retriever.
Korg moved towards the body of Florimund and bandaged the Illusionist. The Green mage yawned and reclined on a gray piece of broken stone. He started to tell a story to himself before falling asleep. As he searched the western wall, Anterbach found a larger grave marker with the words "Rest Not in Peace, but forever tortured, beast Antillies."
Bolt ran back to the front of the building and began helping Anterbach dig at the old grave with a worn dagger. The kender struck wood only a few inches below the burial mound.
Back inside the broken down building, the cloaked skeleton mage continued to move towards the door but the Ranger followed behind swinging his massive magical blade. As the blade fanned the air for a third time, the evil creature turned and began to gesture towards the attacking fighter. Korg continued to care for Florimund and applied an ointment which revived the small spell caster.
Feeling the ancient instinctual anger, the canine Dobbs turned viciously on the lich and charged. With enhanced speed, he was quickly on the lich and began tearing at its garbs trying to distract it or tear its rotten flesh. Twice its teeth scored on the beast. As Korg finished his application he thought he saw his old friend Jorik tearing at the mage and in the distant wall, a familiar fighter with a quarter staff appeared.
While the mage's went on gesturing and calling out ancient words and as Dobbs continued growling and tearing at its legs, Anterbach and Bolt began clearing away the dirt and uncovered the wooden planks. As they tore away at the wood, they realized that two additional, somehow more energized, hands belonging to the green mage were now assisting them.
As Dev charged with his blade again, a bolt of chain lightning erupted from the ancient wizard and hit the ranger's blade and then arched towards Korg where it burned through his arms and legs before rebounding again as a red and yellow dart towards the ranger. After crashing through Dev's abdomen, the bolt blasted towards the wooden north west door and vanished. Three motionless fighters lay on the floor, the remaining fighter, now a dog, continued to tear at the lich. Florimund, partly hidden by the table, was conscious and it appeared that the spell caster was unaware of his presence.
Inside the shallow grave, the box was totally empty save for a four foot long wooden branch like rod with an eight inch wide crystal ball affixed to one end and a leather handle on the other side. The crystal radiated a bright and soft white light that was strangely evil and haunting. In a brief second, the three adventurers experienced months of evil in a village named Kammer where the people hid in fear every night as the lich and his werewolf clan hunted and fed on the inhabitants. Finally, led by a paladin from the Red Comet brotherhood, the people hunted the mage down and burned him at the stake. The ashen remains of the burned corpse continue to lie on Oreth where the citizens buried them, however, every month, when the greater and lesser moons are the most full, they still hear the haunting calls of his brethren
Whether it was arcane magic or some mental enchantment is unclear, somehow Bolt and Anterbach were able to skip the discussion as Anterbach grabbed the wooden handle to the crystal and shot into the room and dove into the shadows. Immediately behind him, Bolt ran into the shack and tried to draw the dead mage’s fire.
Magic Missiles shot from the Swordsman towards the Lich pelting its crown three times. The Lich aimed its finger but then paused and its mouth dropped open as the suddenly mobile Green mage lumbered into the room and then tripped over Korg's unconscious body and feel asleep. Everyone appeared momentarily stunned by the odd sight until Dobbs barking awoke Bolt in time to jump out of the way from an amber bolt of electricity that shot from the monster and buried itself into the southern door.
Anterbach silently struck the monster from behind with the rod and as the crystal shattered, the beast's spirit disintegrated as it was blasted into an infinite array of bone and metal.
With the beast dead, Anterbach went about bandaging and healing his comrades. As the fighters slowly got back to their feet and the Green Mage's snoring became more regular, Bolt went about searching the place.
As he noted earlier, there were two northern doors and an odd western windows that appeared to be an extra dimensional picture. Bolt knew from experience that both the window and northern doors were not visible from the outside. Near the door, a nine inch brass skull laid on the floor and there was old parchment on the table along the east wall where Florimund had fallen. Bolt also saw again the small bag of marbles.
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