Part 18 : Evil Plot Revealed
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 06:17 PM
Twilight 18 : Evil plot revealed
The plan certainly sounded easy enough : Chop and hack and slash your way through legions of undead until you have reached the tower, then run in through the front gates and drop the portcullis when everyone is inside, while the rest runs interference and retreats when Vierna and her party are inside the tower.
But it is said that the best laid plans crumble when put into action. The cataclysmal battle started with a single spell. A Sunray, fired from the hands of Viconia, extremely powerful cleric of Selune. The cleansing fires of the powerful spell destroyed two whole battalions of skeleton warriors. Shortly afterwards, thousands of gleaming white skulls (not to mention the rotting faces of the zombies, and the pale-faced vampires) turned their gaze in the direction of the daring adventurers. And that is when all hell broke loose.
Imoen, Viconia and Karis started to bombard the advancing hoards of undead with powerful offensive spells, while the Fentan Knights took up defensive positions around the spellcasters. Daoud roared as he swung his double-edged battle-axe and decapitated five undead with one foul stroke, while Vierna dove into a score of ghouls, her swords gleaming.
As more and more skeletons fell to spell and blade, one of the Archliches dimension-doored to the front lines. As the skeletal mage appeared, he noticed his nearest opponent was a tiny kobold. Grinning (for what else could a skeletal mage do?), the Lich began casting, hoping to turn the kobold into stone. However, the sudden surprise of a blow dart being lodged in his skull after having been fired by the kobold. The lich recovered quickly, however, but this time, it was the kobold's turn to grin, as the blow dart suddenly exploded, taking the Lich with it.
More and more undead were shooting forwards towards the adventurers. Meanwhile, the Fentan knights were holding their own.
Though slim in height, Mazzy fought like a fanatic paladin of any order, often needing to jump to reach vital parts of her opponents. She cut down a zombie with her Short Sword of Arvoreen, a gift from her patron goddess, while she treated an advancing gravewalker to a sharp kick.
Roderick Gravesend, a cleric of Tyr and devoted Fentan-knight, dual-wielded two maces of disruption, dealing violent death and destruction to the advancing hordes.
Alleria Quicksilver, half-elven swashbuckler, was smiling gleefully as she attacked a group of ghasts, and continuously jumped out of their grasp, mocking them as she sped away.
Drogas Deathaxe, gruff dwarven hero, smiled under his beard as he expertly removed the legs of a skeleton warrior with his axe.... over and over again.
Rihanna, mage of power, cast spell after spell within the deadly mobs of skeletons and zombies, dealing out destruction from a reasonable distance.
All this was to buy the time necessary for Viconia to call upon the powers of her goddess. The power of turning the undead. The channeling of the power needed for turning took longer than expected, since Viconia wanted to make sure that her unborn child would not be harmed by the tremendous amount of magical energy she was calling upon. But now, she was ready. Unimaginable powers were channeled through Viconia's body, which she focused to be released in front of her.
Viconia let out a scream of fury as the power was released towards the approaching hordes and shot forward, shooting through the vast armies of undead, taking out thousands at the same time. The explosion send bones, rotting flesh and broken weapons flying in all directions all the way to the tower, also temporarily throwing the undead army off balance.
"OPENING!" Vierna shouted, which was the signal for her party to speed forward.
"Be careful, Vierna!" Karis shouted after her as he slew another Archlich.
"She's a daughter of mine!" Viconia smiled as she started to prepare yet another spell of Turning. "She will not only be safe, but conquer the tower as well!"
Vierna nodded once, as she, Gerty, Lenny, Glyill, Brimstone and Shivon ran through the newly opened corridor through the armies of undead, as fast as their legs would carry them, never looking back, focusing only the tower... their goal... their beacon. They ignored all the undead their encounter, just passing them by as if they weren't there. Even though they never looked back, they knew the ranks behind them were closing... and that there were countless of undead hot on their tails.
Still, they never looked back. Not even when one of the gigantic Dracoliches loomed before them. Before the giant rotting black dragon could react, the party had already passed between his legs, throwing the dracolich off balance enough to make it drop on his side, crushing several skeleton warriors in the process.
Eventually, after what had seemed an eternity, they ran through the front gates of the tower, again never looking back. After frantically searching for the release-mechanism, Shivon cast a magic missle at the chains, snapping them instantly. Without warning, a huge rusting metal slab serving as a blockade against invaders came dropping down, crushing several of the pursuing undead creatures and blocking all the others out.
"I... am," Gerty pouted, "never... doing something... like this... ever again!"
"We still have to find Argent quickly!" Vierna said to her friends. "Come on! My parents are still fighting for their lives out there!"
A quick search of the first floor of the tower revealed that the whole place was deserted, devoid of all life... and un-life. Cobwebs, rusting broken weapons, loose bricks and long forgotten furnishings littered the floors as they made their way from room to room, looking for a way up into the tower. They passed through hallways decorated by ratty tapestries and decaying painting, telling the story of past glories.
Eventually, but with due haste, they came to a large chamber, which kind of resembled a practise room for squires. And there he stood, in another room, overlooking the practise-arena, about ten feet above them. Argent Brightstar, fallen paladin, cursed by the gods, was looking rather amused at the intruders of his sanctum, and weathered the low growl of Brimstone directed at his person.
"I really wish you hadn't come here," Argent spoke.
"You knew we had to..." Vierna snarled.
"Yes... I would at that..." Argent smiled. "I was like you once, after all."
"Hey, tall, dark and deaddish!" Gerty shouted. "Why don't you come down here so we can kick your ass!"
"He has an ace up his sleeve," Glyill spoke. "That much is obvious."
"Have I?" the Death Knight smiled.
"Well, that army outside proves your evil intent!" Shivon directed at Argent. "Why else would someone gather such a large army if he does not intend to invade the Realms?"
The Death Knight chuckled wryly, and looked even more amused. "I do not intend to invade the Realms. They intend to invade the Realms. There is a difference."
"I'll bet," Gerty snorted. "My uncle Jan and my uncle Roddy once wanted the turnips from the same patch and ended up having a hair-pulling contest. Why do you think my uncle Roddy is so bald?"
"That... really doesn't make any sense," Argent blinked.
"You don't know how often I hear that," Gerty muttered.
"Anyway, I'd love to spend more time with you, but I have some work to do," Argent spoke. "I must leave you..."
"Wait!" Vierna snarled. "I gathered the spell components which you stole! My parents and my friends are fighting undead hordes outside of this tower as we speak. Tell us what the spell is! YOU OWE US!"
Argent seemed to consider this, and then, finally decided to tell the tale. "Very well," he sighed. "The theft of your hard labour has been weighing on my conscience, I admit. So, you shall know... I am preparing to destroy the gods..."
"PREPOSTEROUS!" Lenny roared in laughter.
"Oh, the local paladin," Argent spoke in disdain. "Is this were you tell me to end my evil ways and join the forces of light?"
"No," Lenny said. "I think you're a complete bastard who should be killed, just as you killed those innocent children so long ago!"
"THOSE WERE SLAVERS!" Argent retorted. "Slavers in the bud! They would have grown up to be slavers anyway, so they had to be destroyed, before they would destroy more lives themselves!"
"Completely barmy..." Lenny muttered.
"My whole life I have dedicated myself to the end of slavery in the Realms, but when I was still alive, I failed to see the true nature of slavery. They..." Argent pointed to the heavens with a single finger. "Those false idols. They... toy with us at their leisure. We mortals live and die at their whims! We are nothing but plaything for their vanity and scheming! Your own father, Vierna DeVir, your own father was once such a plaything himself... The vanity of a single god allowed the Sword Coast to be bathed in blood as cities and villages burned during the War of the Children!"
"This is a moot point," Glyill snorted. "You cannot hope to kill the gods!"
"Oh, yes I can," Argent smiled. "I have developed a spell. A low-level enchantment-spell in the form of an insensible mist, which will penetrate the minds of the populace of all races, and will make them reject the gods with every fibre of their being. A god can die... if he is forgotten..."
"Hah!" Lenny chuckled. "A half-baked-scheme! There's no way you can spread that spell fast enough before the gods will react."
"I can," Argent smiled. "Because the spell-components you have gathered for me form the key to an all-powerful augmentation spell! Already, I have had my undead friends outside place containers of the magical gas to all the major cities of Faerun, and I need cast the final augmentation-spell to activate the containers. The gods will never know what hit them."
"Diabolical," Lenny muttered.
"No," Argent corrected. "Visionary. Finally, the people will know true freedom. Certainly there will be chaos for the first years or so, but that will be resolved. Those fool liches outside? They wish to seize control during the chaos, but I suspect their reign will not last long. The liches simply don't realize how strong the desire for freedom is... And then, with the undead out of the way, it will be the start of a new order."
"Under your leadership?" Glyill snorted.
"Figures," Shivon added.
"Oh, no, no, no..." Argent said, as if he had received a slap in the face. "I would be free to leave my tower, of course... But I intend to travel the planes, to end the reign of the gods on other worlds and countless others..."
"Nice guy you've hooked us up with, V," Gerty shook her head.
"Now, it is time from me to leave you," Argent nodded once. "It's time for me to finish the last spell. Besides, you will soon have your hands full." That said, Argent left the party and walked into the tunnel behind them.
Meanwhile, outside the tower, the battle was not going well. Though Viconia was dealing out vicious amounts of damage to the everlasting amounts of undead. But for ever undead creature fallen, three seemed to be taking it's place. Miraculously, not even one of the heroes had fallen, but the planned retreat had failed.
Instead, the heroes had been backed against a cliff side, forming a semicircle for mutual defense. Imoen, Rihanna and Karis had used up all their spells, as had Viconia and Roderick, though they still had the power to turn undead. But things looked grim as one of the Dracoliches had decided to ascend to the heavens to deal deadly acid from above.
Karis wiped the blood from a nasty gash in his forehead and quickly downed his last healing-potion before joining Imoen.
"Sis," he said, direction of the archmage who fired several arrows at a zombie. "I think it's time for our trump-card..."
"You sure?" Imoen replied as she panted in near exhaustion. "We only get one shot..."
"We need the big red now, or we'll never need him again!" He said, pointing at the now airborne Dracolich.
Imoen nodded and removed an especially enchanted arrow from her quiver, notched her bow and fired it into the air, opening the second portal Imoen had cast today.
The Dracolich, in the meantime, was audibly chuckling as he swooped down, intending to destroy the annoying living ones... only to be intercepted by another dragon, who literally dwarfed the former black. Before the dracolich could veer off, the gigantic red had clamped his jaw over it's long neck, bit down and ripped off the dracolich's head with little effort. Both bodyparts crashed into the undead armies, crushing hundreds as it fell, and leaving only the mocking laughter of Arokh, Ancient Wyrm to be heard as he assaulted the undead with gusts of flame.
"Destroy the gods," Vierna whispered. "Glyill, Lenny? Is that even possible?"
"I... I truly don't know," Glyill sighed.
"And," Vierna sighed. "What will happen if he succeeds?"
"Maybe nothing," Lenny said. "But it could also be possible that the entire world falls apart. It is thought that the gods have their hands into everything, and regulate it... I truly can't say. But, without clerical magic, we cannot heal, or resurrect. Maybe there won't be magic at all. What a dull place this world would be, without magic..."
"More to the point," Gerty said. "Do we really want to stop dead-boy? I mean, what have the gods ever done for us?"
"Gerty!" Glyill snarled.
"Urrrrm, guys?" Shivon suddenly spoke.
"It's true you know," Gerty sighed. "But, I do kinda like Garl Glittergold. It'd be tough to see the old guy go. Sure, count me in."
"Guys?" Shivon said, more panicked this time.
"Okay, then," Vierna smiled. "We need to find a way up there so we can prevent this whole mess from ever occuring."
"GUYS!" Shivon shouted, this time having the desired effect. Pointing at the wall, they finally saw what had spooked Shivon. It was another undead creature... A living wall.
Dozens of hands, some brandishing weapons protruded from a rectangular lump greying and sinewy flesh. Faces, hands, broken bones, feet, and toes were jutting from the surface as low moans of horror, pain, and sorrow issued from it. It was a thing of pure horror, containing the melded bodies of humanoids and monsters who died within the vicinity of the wall since its creation. And, Vierna knew, if anyone of her friends would be pulled and absorbed into the wall, they would be lost forever.
Vierna looked at Lenny, and he knew what he must do. Supporting the light Drow, he cupped hands as he rose Vierna off the floor, then thrusting her into the air, towards the path Argent had left into just moments ago. Grasping hands from the living wall reached for the frightened Drow adventurer, but she never came within reach and landed safely.
The Drow turned around, to glance at her party, her friends one more time. Gerty's quirky smile, Shivon's gaze of love, Brimstone's loyal eyes, Lenny's encouraging smile and Glyill's curt nod. They all saluted her as they were forced to retreat down the stairs, far out of range, and save from the living wall.
Vierna steadied herself with grim determination. She would have to fight this battle alone.
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