Part 17 : I demand a rematch!
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 06:17 PM
Twilight 17 : I demand a rematch!
Vierna DeVir sat quietly alone at her usual table out of the burning sun pouring in through the open windows. It was a particularly hot day, and Vierna surmised that it had been a good thing the streetsweepers had removed Tipper's body long before the night was over. 'A good thing,' Vierna thought, allowing a slight smile to crack for the first time this day. 'Considering how he smells alive, I wouldn't like to smell him dead... Especially not in this weather.' In the background, the kobold Kasim was playing ambient music.
Vierna had barely slept last night, thinking back on the events last night. About the Death Knight and his pinprick red eyes, taking the spell components they worked so hard to collect, and just swooped them aside as he escaped.
Again her fist slammed on the table as she thought back. What could she have done differently... and why didn't she try harder to get those components back.
"Hey, V!" Gerty greeted as she approached Vierna, but for one of the few times since before, Vierna really had no desire for Gerty's company.
"Morning..." Vierna muttered.
"Geez, you're lively!" Gerty snorted.
"How come you're so perky, dammit!" Vierna snapped. "Not only were we robbed yesterday, but we've just handed an insanely evil creature the key to create a powerful spell of which we STILL don't have any idea what it does!"
"Lighten up, V!" Gerty chuckled, tossing her red hair back over her shoulder. "You know, as I see it, there's nothing we can do about it anyway, so why keep sulking?"
"Sometimes your indifference really scares me," Vierna half-smiled.
"I hope it's not as scary as watching your mother eat!" Gerty grimaced and glanced over to Viconia in the other sitting at a her table and digging her knife and fork into a clam-salad, containing lettuce, boiled clams and apple-peels, all liberally covered with tomato-sauce.
"Yeah," Vierna smiled. "This IS scary, isn't it? You should see what she ate when she was carrying Rauva... Auntie Imoen just managed to stop her before she ate a mud-pie..."
"Ohhhh," Gerty smiled. "Mudpies are good. Mom always used to make such wonderful mudpies from gritty turnip-paste..."
"Noooooo," Vierna grimaced. "These mudpies were made from actual mud."
"What?!" Gerty smiled. "Garden mud, or the fancy store-bought mud? Because, nothing can beat store-bought mud."
"Momma was quite vocal about the whole thing," Vierna snorted. "Auntie Imoen was only just able to dodge the energy disk aimed for her head. Never mess with pregnant Drow, Gerty..."
"I'll keep that in mind," Gerty grimaced. "Mind you, us Jansens are not very nice when with child either, you know? One, my mother dropped an anvil on my dad's head from the third floor after he had brought her the wrong kind of chocolate from the store. Didn't hurt ole dad much, though. But then again, he was never the brightest star in the heavens. Anyway, you are here sulking and your mom is sitting over there watching you. So why am I here to console you instead of her?"
"Hah," Vierna chuckled. "My mother had learned the hard way that she should leave me alone when I'm in a sulky mood like this. She always tells everyone I was the cutest child there was, but as a teenager, I was like a creature from the Abyss. So she's keeping an eye out, but will let this situation resolve itself. How are the others?"
"Well, if Volo ever writes about us, Lenny will be known as Lenny the Lazy. That paladin refused to come out of bed before noon. Says he has a 'tummy ache'. Now, I haven't seen that elven loverboy of yours since he went to the market to by some extensions for his spell-book, but I think he'll be back soon. And, Glyill, well... she heard me coming up the stairs, I think, and locked the door just before I could let myself in. But I gotta say that everyone seems to be in a grim mood."
"I'm sure, though..." Vierna started to say, but was a little startled to find Daoud running from the kitchen, running towards the counter at the inn, and grabbing hold of a huge battle axe he kept hidden there.
"Daoud? What's going on?" Vierna asked.
"Another magic portal, Memsahib Vierna!" he replied as he swung the double-edged battle axe over his shoulder. "Ay, having you stay at my humble inn is turning to be quite interesting, memsahib!"
Vierna and Gerty looked at each other, before moving to join Daoud into the kitchen, while Viconia suddenly asked her daughter to bring her some more tomato-sauce from the kitchen.
But moving to the kitchen ended up being unnecessary. Only moments later, the cloth flap separating the kitchen from the main hall was shoved aside, revealing none other than Imoen, looking very, very miffed at Viconia.
"Ah, I knew it was only a matter of time before you'd show up," Viconia muttered as she shoveled more clams into her mouth.
"I could have helped you and Vierna in that Drow city, you know?" Imoen replied, sounding a little hurt.
"Hah!" Viconia snorted. "You wouldn't have lasted a day!"
"Oh, come on!" Vierna smiled, taking a moment to embrace Imoen. "Auntie Imoen could have helped very much."
"Awww, shucks!" Imoen smiled and ruffled Vierna's hair. "Well, at least somebody appreciates me."
"Oh, I do appreciate you, Imoen," Viconia muttered. "But I appreciate it more if you left me alone. Vierna needed my help."
"Viconia," sounded the voice of Karis as he too emerged from the kitchen. "Vierna can take care of herself, but now," Karis said, pointing at Viconia's belly, "you need to come home to protect someone else."
"Sinssrig," Viconia half-snarled, "by now, you should have found out already that I go where I please!"
"Viconia," Karis sighed. "Please..."
Again the cloth flap was shoved aside and gave way to a halfling-sized paladin. Mazzy Fentan, leader of a small group of Fentan knights still waiting for their leader in the kitchen, stood mentally taller than her actual size. The halfling's braided hair had started to gone grey, but that in no way diminished the sparkling in her eyes that had been there when she had been part of Karis' party before Imoen had returned.
"Has Viconia decided to return home yet?" Mazzy asked with minor annoyance.
"Mazzy!" Vierna greeted, and Mazzy nodded in return. But apparently, her attention, or rather, ire, was with Viconia at the moment.
"The Fentan knights?" Viconia snorted as she leisurely took another mouthful of tomatoed clams. "Rather extreme, don't you think?"
"Hey, you said you were going to a Drow city!" Imoen retorted. "What you didn't say was that the city was mostly harmless..."
"I swear, Drow," Mazzy told Viconia. "You will go back through that portal even if I have to drag you to it by your fluffy white hair!"
"Mazzy," Karis grimaced, "there is no need for that and Viconia is free to go wherever she wants. I just hope she makes the right decision and returns to the Keep with us."
"Tell the overly short halfling," Viconia snorted, "that this Drow has a mind of her own and shall kill her if she takes one step closer." She then took another leisurely bite.
"ACK!" Mazzy shouted, stamping her feet. "Why do you always drive me to the edge of my sanity, Drow?!"
"It doesn't take much effort," Viconia muttered.
"Viconia, please!" Karis said, trying to soothe the mood.
Vierna sighed audibly and broke in the conversation. "Say," Vierna sighed. "I'd like to join you through that portal... I'll go pack my things," she sighed, slowly heading towards the staircase.
"Okay, girlie!" Imoen said as she and Karis followed Vierna up the stairs and confronted her in her own room. "Now, you're gonna tell auntie Imoen all about what's bugging you... No holding out."
Vierna sighed and ran her hands through her hair as she sat down on the bed. She told the whole tale, of their adventures in Calimport, through the trackless deserts, through the depths of the Muzad, and how the Death Knight had finally stolen the fruit of their hard labour.
"I feel like such an idiot!" Vierna sighed, burying her face in her hands. "I fell for the oldest trick in the adventuring handbook. And that after almost fifteen years of experience! I should have taken up knitting when I was a teenager..."
"Now, now, Vierna," Vierna looked up at the smiling face of her father. "You've scored many successes as well. Saving Cormyr from the Orcish hordes, fighting in the war with Thay, saving Luskan from the Zhents..."
"And do you think we've never failed before, Vierna?" Imoen replied, reliving the anguish they had felt when they had come too late to save Saradush so long ago.
"Tell you what," Karis smiled. "Why don't Imoen and I go check out the site of this portal which the Death Knight used. We might still be able to track the magic back to the place of his destination."
Perked up for the first time all day, Vierna smiled broadly. "I... I didn't think of that. So this is not the end after all?"
"Hey, with grasp of things magical, it'll be easy!" Imoen vowed. "So put that frown around and let us help you."
Night had fallen, and Imoen and Karis were making great progress tracking the residual magics back to the destination of the portal which had formed yesterday evening. In the meantime, Daoud had agreed to tell the whole tale, and finally reveal the identity of the Death Knight which had stolen the spell components. All of Vierna's party, the Fentan knights as well as Karis, Viconia and Imoen, had gathered around the largest table as Daoud was telling the tale.
"About three hundred years ago, a powerful and well-known paladin of the Tyrran faith came to our fine city from the north. His name was Argent Brightstar, a noble, yet arrogant and proud man, always wearing polished full plate, riding on a white horse, claiming to be the very paragon of purity... He operated from the north-lands, based at a tower from which he led his operations."
"Go ahead!" Lenny sighed. "Gimme your paladin jokes here. I can take them..."
"He was known as a destroyer of slavery and many vile slave-traders of Calimport feared his coming. His entire career he had devoted himself to the ending of slavery in all its forms, and he had destroyed or ended the lives of many slavemarketeers in the northern cities, with the full favor of his god Tyr," Daoud continued.
"A noble cause," Mazzy muttered. "But please continue the tale, dear Daoud."
"Unlike our good sultan Harun el Poessah (may he reign forever), however, Argent Brightstar was bent on freeing the slaves immediately without considering consequences, which made him very unpopular with our people and our nobility, who valued stability."
"What most of my brother and sister paladins don't realize," Lenny said, "is that true change comes slow, never quick..."
"So, every measure Argent took, every victory won were negated by the nobles living of slavetrade or slavelabour, so he decided they had to be destroyed to be able to free the slaves. He invited the nobles to a faux-gathering, and when they had all entered the local fest, he magically sealed the door and proceeded to slaughter them all without mercy, including their innocent families," Daoud nodded. "Down to the last woman and child..."
"Great," Gerty muttered. "A fanatic... typical..."
"He was chased from the city, of course," Daoud replied. "But his punishment did not end there. His true fate was unknown, but as we have seen, Tyr cursed him for his act of evil by transmuting him into a Death Knight, condemning him to eternal life."
"But he's back now," Vierna said. "I wonder what he's up to."
"Does it matter?" Mazzy snorted. "He is a Death Knight, and thus, irredeemably evil. Whatever he wishes to achieve, it will be not be for noble goals!"
"Well," Imoen smiled. "Only one way to find out! The portal-spell is almost ready to be cast."
"The Fentan knights will fight at your side to defeat this evil!" Mazzy vowed.
"So will Imoen and I," Karis said.
"AND ME!" Viconia snarled, slamming her fist on the table. "I'm not letting my daughter descend into that pit of magic on her own!"
Karis twirled around, a look of exhaustion crossing his features. "Viconia. I thought we had decided..."
"I AM GOING AND THAT IS FINAL!" Viconia snarled, daring anyone in the room to defy her. And no one dared.
"Kasim and I will join you too!" Daoud smiled while he rose his battle axe and Kasim had exchanged his flute for a blowpipe.
"Hey, I always wanted to be part of a big army and kick rump!" Gerty smiled with anticipation.
The portal deposited them on a lush, grassy knoll, as Imoen has intended. She had altered the spell in order to have the portal desposit them quite some distance from the place where Argent Brightstar had exited, in order not to jump into his arms.
As the last warrior exited the portal, they stood a moment to gather their bearings. Apparently, they had been transported to a more northren location, and the air was certainly a lot cooler compared to the dry heat of Calimport. Their surroundings resembled a grassy meadow surrounded by a lush and deep forest. There was no sign of any bodies of water, neither sea, river, or lake. Nor was there any sight of evil activities. Until Vierna stepped over to the edge of the grassy knoll to look down upon the valley below.
She gasped deeply at the spectacle. There, surrounded by lush grass-lands and some trees stood Argent's tower, blackened and in a state of obvious disrepair. But that was not the only thing she saw.
"It's an invasion army?" Karis muttered. Surrounding the tower, as far as the eye could see, were hordes upon hordes of undead. Battalions of Skeleton Warriors gleaming in the evening sun, smaller groups of zombies, gravewalkers, ghasts, ghouls and vampires flanked them, and, nearest to the tower stood a number of Archliches, apparently the commanders of this vast army of the dead. And to top it off, two towering Dracoliches flanked the other liches in an awesome display of magical power.
"Is it too late to jump back into that portal and get the hell out of here?" Gerty muttered.
"Guys..." Vierna whispered. "I'm glad you all came along..."
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