Part 16 : Revelations
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 06:16 PM
Twilight 16 : Revelations
"Ah, the warm light of the sun!" Vierna smiled as she was about to open the hatch witch was the way to exit the Muzad. "No more darkness, no more humidity, just clear blue skies!" she said and opened the hatch.
"Dang," Vierna muttered as she regarded the sky.
"Vierna, it's night," Gerty snickered.
"Well, that's another perfectly crafted speech ruined..." Vierna muttered as she climbed out into the night and helped her friends lift her faithful hound Brimstone out of the tunnels. Viconia was the last to climb out and closed the grate behind her, locking it in place.
"So, now what?" Lenny asked.
"Yes," Glyill muttered. "Now that we have all the components, what will be do?"
"Hah!" Gerty broke in, pushing herself into the group. "I say we get back to the inn, so we can EAT and LAZY ABOUT TILL WE DROP!"
"Sounds like a plan!" Vierna smiled at her friend as she sheaved her weapons.
"Well, after trudging through the Muzad and exploring a Drow city," Shivon smiled. "We've certainly earned it."
Viconia pushed herself to the front of the group, smiling heartily. "Your party has a good sense of priority. I have been feeling a bit peckish."
And so they did. After returning back to the 'Smiling Camel Inn', they were greeted by the kindly innkeeper Daoud and treated to a meal to burst the buttons on the shirts of the group of noble adventurers. After the nine-course meal had been reduced to crumbs, the five adventurers in Vierna's part (plus one dog) sat back in their chairs, completely tired out and filled by the many food they had eaten. The kobold musician Kasim was playing soothing soft music in the background, while the only person still hungry, Viconia, was finishing off the last of her meal.
"Hmmm," Viconia smiled as she took another bite from her treat. "This one tastes great when covered with mayonnaise, marmalade and a just a touch of pepper..."
Daoud, who was standing next to Viconia, was looking a mite green as he regarded the Drow. "Erm, memsahib DeVir," he stammered, "you are eating a cactus..."
"Yes," Viconia blinked. "That I am... Do you have any more?"
"Well, I put them on the tables as decorations," Daoud smiled. "Are you sure..."
"Positive!" Viconia smiled. "And leave the jar of mayonnaise..."
As Daoud gathered the decorative cactus from Vierna's table, where she and her friends were sitting back in their chairs, recovering from the gigantic meal, Vierna smiled. "Don't worry, Daoud," she said. "I've seen momma eat stranger stuff when she was pregnant before. Radish-juice, corn-leaves in ketchup, salted milk, goat-cheese with carrot-juice... It all tastes exquisite to her."
"WHERE'S MY CACTUS?!" Viconia shouted from her table.
"Better go bring momma her food," Vierna smiled. "When momma was pregnant with my sister Rauva, she decked my uncle Minsc when he didn't bring her her pickled bagels fast enough..."
"How... reassuring," the aged adventurer grinned uneasily, and decided to bring Viconia her meal as quickly as possible.
"Better throw in some chocolate covered parsley while you're at it," Gerty grinned. "Always worked for my mother..."
As Daoud set to the task, Vierna and her friends regarded the items they had collected over the past month. On the table, they had laid them out : a scale of a brown dragon, a flask filled with the Water of Forgetfullness, the skull of the Aboleth which took up the most room on the table, the flower of the Nightstalker, a Staff of Deceit, a Fruit of a Demontree and a Flechette of DarkDust. So insignificant they seemed, but they had been gained through hard work and generally living dangerously.
"So," Shivon said, "what do we do now?"
"I think it's a good idea to visit Rabba again tomorrow," Lenny said. "He's the one who turned on to the right paths to the components, so he might tell me what we can use these for."
"Shivon and I are not powerful enough mages to do anything with it," Vierna muttered, cupping her chin with her hands as she supported her elbows on the table. "But Arokh might know now that he has researched the spell-application. And I'm sure Imoen will be back soon, so we might ask her too..."
"What makes you think she'll be back soon?" Shivon asked.
"HAH!" Vierna chuckled. "Whenever momma is pregnant, aunty Imoen watches her like a hawk. And now that we're no longer in the shielded Drow city, I'm sure she's already scrying us and preparing a portal spell to this location."
"Pretty handy that," Gerty smiled, while Vierna put the components in her Bag of Holding. "Reminds me of the time my uncle Jan wanted to make a suspended mass-transit system for the Amnians working and living on opposite sides of the city. Due to budget-cuts, he had to make it completely out of breadsticks... Which wasn't bad, until the travellers started to eat the tram. Then this half-orc ate a crucial engine-part and the whole damn thing just collapsed."
Suddenly, Brimstone got on his feet and started snarling and growling at the door.
"Gah!" Lenny suddenly exclaimed while he waved in the air in front of him. "What's that bloody horrible smell?"
"I know that smell!" Vierna snarled and already had her hands on the hilts of her swords as the source of the evil smell entered the inn.
Tipper Quickfist, self-proclaimed god of adventuring for profit, entered the room. Something was odd about him, though. His armor was clean, and it looked a lot more expensive than even Tipper could ever afford. He wore his usual cruel grin as he strode over to Vierna's table and bent over it, slamming his palms flat on the surface of the wood.
"Well, well, well," Tipper sneered. "I didn't know they let little girl-scouts into this inn, DeVir."
"Gee, I didn't know living people could emit that kind of rotten smell," Vierna retorted.
"You know, DeVir," Tipper smiled, "this is the end for you and your lot! No longer shall I suffer your orcish wit!"
"Then be a good boy. Stay! Sit!" Vierna smiled.
"That was a strange insult-retort combination," Glyill smiled.
"Yeah, I know," Vierna said while smiling back at Glyill. "I think that huge meal threw off my insult-bone."
But this time, Tipper did not respond verbally. Instead, he drew his sword and slammed it onto the table, shattering it into a thousand chips of wood. Immediately, Vierna's party jumped to attention, raising weapons and preparing for a fight. But Tipper was not alone : In a gust of foul gas, a set of five ghoulish figures appeared, fully armored and wearing powerful weapons. To her horror, Vierna recognized the warped faces of the ghouls : They were once Tipper's party of fellow adventurers.
"What have you done to them?!" Lenny was the first to shout an outraged cry.
"Oh, don't worry," Tipper smiled. "They didn't feel any pain, and I'm still pretty, so no baddies..."
"You are even sicker than I thought!" Vierna retorted. But as the ghouls advanced on Vierna's party, a second set of undead appeared. An Archlich, its skeletal features adorned with a tattered Robe of the Archmagi and an endless amount of gems and assorted baubles. Flanking him was a score of Skeletal Warriors.
Without hesitation, Lenny grasped his spear and swung it in a deadly maneuver, severing the heads of one of the ghouls and severely injuring another. Making use of the sudden confusion, Tipper made a grasp for the Bag of Holding now lying on the floor. Snatching it up, he bellowed a shout of victory while Vierna snarled in reply. Tipper did not waste any time and brushed past the Drow to run up the stairs, heading for the roof.
"Hold them off!" Vierna shouted to her friends, while Brimstone charbroiled one of the ghouls with his fiery breath. "Tipper stole my Bag of Holding."
Kicking open the door leading to the flat roof of the 'Smiling Camel Inn', Tipper ran towards the railing. To his relief, he noticed his employer standing there already, dressed in his usual black cloak.
"So," the figure spoke, "judging from your increased perspiration, I gather you have finally succeeding in your task."
"Yes," Tipper smiled, handing the figure Vierna's Bag of Holding. "Here they are," he smiled, but noticed the figure was rummaging around in the Bag, only taking the components. "Hey!" Tipper snarled. "What are you doing?! Let's just take the whole bag! Might be worth a lot of money!"
"We are NOT thieves, Tipper!" the figure spoke in an annoyed fashion. "We shall only take what we have come for..."
Then, the Drow adventurer Vierna stormed through the door and onto the roof. She immediately directed her attention to the two others on the roof. As she rose her swords and prepared to engage, he eyes flashed bright red in the starry night. "Tipper!" she snarled. "Give back the Bag and the components!"
"Here," the figure said and tossed the Bag of Holding at Vierna, who deftly caught it and attached it to her belt.
"Who might you be?" Vierna asked, freigning interest.
"I am someone who got what he came for," the figure spoke and scooped up the spell components. "Come," he told Tipper. "Let us be off..."
"NO!" Tipper snarled. "I want to teach this little toddler a thing or two about fighting! I wanna teach her a lesson for making me feel dumb! You promised me!"
"This is correct," the figure sighed. "I did. Very well... But I am not waiting for you to kill everyone who has made you feel dumb in your life. I don't have all century..."
"Huh?" was Tipper's confused reply...
The battle downstairs was not going well. Even though the ghouls were not trouble and were quickly dealt with, the skeleton warriors, augmented by the power of the Lich, had driven Vierna's party in a corner. They fought with valiance, but things looked bleak at the prospect of having to fight in tight spaces against skilled undead.
"What's going on here?!" Viconia snarled as she returned from her trip of raiding the kitchen. Behind her, were Daoud and Kasim. The bearded innkeeper was holding a mean battle-axe, while Kasim had exchanged his flute for a nasty-looking blowpipe.
"I am your doom, Drow!" the Lich retorted. "I will suck the marrow from your living bones as my warriors of darkness shall flay you alive!"
Viconia made a rude noise and rose her hands. Immediately, all the skeleton warriors exploded, leaving the startled Lich to deal with four powerful adventurers, two angry innkeepers, a snarling Hell-hound and... a pregnant Viconia.
"Okay," the Lich smiled uneasily, "I think we're done here..." he said and dimension-doored out of the inn.
Vierna was experiencing the downside of dining grandly or, more to the point, fighting just after having dined grandly. Vierna felt bloated and was generally slowed down by the stomach-cramps caused by the sudden movements. Normally, she would be able to more than counter Tipper's moves, but under these conditions, she was mostly on the defensive the entire fight.
But still, that was to her advantage. Vierna had managed to block every blow, counter every dirty trick Tipper used as he swung his magical two-handed blade at her head. Frustration was more and more evident on Tipper's grimy face as his every attack was blocked or averted.
Noticing she was seriously bruising Tippers ego, Vierna concentrated on defensive moves, rather than the offensive ones. More and more, Tipper started to slip as anger took control. Eventually, Tipper bellowed and tossed a final swing in Vierna's direction... which missed by a mile. Instead, Tipper accidentally stepped into one of Daoud's clay pots which he used to catch fresh rainwater for his cacti. Unable to keep his balance, Tipper fell forward... and rolled over the railing. Making a final desperate grab at the figure's cloak, the figure itself make no move to help his servant. A loud tear could be heard, followed by an anguished scream as Tipper feel three storeys down.
"I wish you hadn't done that," the uncloaked figure spoke as he looked over the railing. "It will take the streetsweepers weeks to remove that greasy splat from the cobblestones..."
Vierna's swords dropped from her hands as she looked at the uncloaked figure in surprise.
In the background, Vierna's party and Daoud stormed onto the roof.
"Holy Lathander!" Lenny suddenly shouted as he regarded the uncloaked figure. "A Death Knight!" he whispered.
"You've got a what now?" Gerty asked.
"Not just any Death Knight, effendi paladin!" Daoud gasped. "I know who that is!"
Vierna looked upon the now uncloaked figure in awe. It was an undead creature, standing over seven feet tall. His undead skin was blackened and seemingly stretched over his skull. His long hair was dark grey, but neatly groomed... but his eyes... his eyes. His eyeballs were completely black, save for a small pinprick of intense red where the iris used to be. His armor, formally regal and ornate, was now battered and scorched black. On the right of his armor, just above his heart, were blatant chisel-marks. It is were the symbol of his God would be... if he were not damned.
Vierna knew about the Death Knights, and how rare they were. Paladins who committed unforgivable crimes dark enough, did not merely fall, but were condemned by the gods to become a twisted undead thing, unable to die, unable to move from their earthly prison. But they were also powerful necromancers, and undoubtedly, this was only a simulacrum... Unless he had found a way to escape.
"Those components belong to us," Vierna spoke softly as she pointed at the components lying at the Death Knight's feet.
"You've certainly earned them," the Death Knight spoke in earnest. "You have fought hard for them. To be honest, I did not think you would actually pull it off, but you did. Impressive. You have earned my respect... But, sadly, I need those components more than you do..."
"And what for, pray tell?" Vierna asked, hoping the undead creature would reveal more information.
But the Death Knight seemed rather dismayed. "What kind of two-dimensional half-wit do you take me for?!" he exclaimed.
"Well," Gerty snickered. "You WERE a paladin once..."
"HEY!" Lenny spoke his indignity.
"Oh, I agree," the Death Knight made a sound resembling a raspy chuckle. "And I do not blame you for trying. But do you really expect me to divulge my plans which I have been carefully crafting for the last two-hundred years?"
"Well, I was hoping you would..." Vierna smirked.
"No... But have no fear, young Vierna. You are not my enemy. In fact, we wish the same things, you and I... We are both working for the cause of good..."
"I seriously doubt that!" Vierna retorted.
"Yeah!" Gerty broke in. "Besides, I saw what you did to the grand vizier! Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it an act of charity to burn a man slowly from the inside out?"
"Oh," the Death Knight replied while the remnants of his cloak were caught in a gust of wind. "He was evil to the core. He used people as his personal property and played with thousands of lives. He was merely a means to an end. I would have finished him off anyway, but... do not tell you would NOT have ended his life with cold steel, Vierna, if I would not have destroyed him before you had the chance."
Realizing the trap, Vierna would not rise to the bait. "Perhaps... Perhaps not. But you did not kill him because of righteous justice! You killed him because you didn't want him to spill the beans..."
"There was that too."
"No more mindgames, creature!" Vierna spat. "We will have our components back! We will fight you!"
"I am afraid that is not possible," the Death Knight sighed. "Nor do I desire too..." Almost immediately, a dimension door opened directly below the components, immediately sucking them through the gate. "But rest assured... The Twilight of the Gods is at hand!"
Vierna rolled forward, almost groaning as she felt her meal shift, make a grab for her swords and sped forwards, sadly arriving too late to prevent the components from being stolen. The simulacrum of the Death Knight nodded once and exploded in an ink black cloud.
"DAMMIT!" Vierna snarled, while Brimstone howled, adding to the frustration the entire party felt.
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