Curse of the Crimson Throne

Summary 23: Kicking the Skull...Again

Chapter Five: Skeletons of Scarwall

It had been a long few days, made longer with Duvafoodle continuing his complaints about being tired all the time. His friends dismissed his words, with Panian always on the verge of smacking the small man. Duvafoodle had seen many years. His age was the equivalent of the three others around him combined. One day, they too would be complaining about how tired they were. One day, they too would no longer be able to lift a blade or string a bow. One day they too would sleep for twelve hours a day, with a four hour nap in the afternoon. One day, they too would have their friends complain about their everyday words.

To the casual ear, the small exchange of words would not be considered as anything important. Yet had Panian been able to foresee the future, he might have held his mocking tongue. For little did he know that Duvafoodle's final breath floated so very near in the future.

The four continued exploring the upper levels, still looking for the final two spirit anchors. Jansaadi listened at each door, and heard the flapping of wings in four of them. These were the familiar sounds of gargoyles, foes they had faced in the Fire Shoanti camp. It was a simple matter to cut them down, leaving only two doors to explore.

Opting for the regular door, they came into a barren room with a hole in the ceiling. As MoK entered, two demonic heads poked their heads through the opening, then retracted and began speaking in an unknown language. Using his own demonic mind, Duvafoodle flew up on the carpet, cast a spell, and stone shaped the hole to make it wide enough for a table, two chairs, and two befuddled devils tumbled to the floor. Rudolph charged in right away and brought his sword smashing down into the devil’s ribs with the force of a hammer. He was rewarded with the fountain of gore that emerged from the swing, but recoiled as one of the barbs lodged in his own arm. Flying high, Duvafoodle blasted the same foe with his eldritch blast.

Shoving the pain in the back of its mind, it jumped to its feet, taking a quick slash from Rudolph in that momentary lack of defense. It attempted to claw at its attacker, but Rudolph deflected the reaching talons. The other devil had also gotten to its feet and clawed at the crusaders back. It then attempted to pull the warrior into its own barbs, but Rudolph had trained himself to avoid being grappled by enemies and avoided the attempt. Jandsaadi continued the onslaught by hitting the devil with two arrows. Panian brought down the pain, taking two barb jabs for his efforts. Still the devil stood its ground somehow. Rudolph couldn't find an opening for a follow-up attack, but couldn't help sighing in relief as Duvafoodle blasted him and Panian with a healing blast.

Barely standing, the injured devil made a rectangular motion with his fingers and opened a gate to Hell, hoping that another of its kind would see the door and come rushing through. Sadly for him, no help arrived. He sighed in relief as five arrows streaked towards him and bounced off his barbs. He sighed in even greater relief as he deflected three mighty axe swings. And he cringed in disappointment as the killing blade of Rudolph erupted through his chest.

Duvafoodle aimed his rod at Panian and screamed "Enlarge." Soon Panian felt his muscles begin expanding outward and his point of view flying higher. Unlike the last time, he accepted the change as he had seen Rudolph go through the same magic, and had seen the devastation he had wrought. Seeing this, the last barbed devil attempted to summon one of his friends from his home plane, but no one answered the call. Two arrows caused it some minor harm, but it was the great, great axe of Panian that simply sheared through its barbs, wounding it greatly.

Rudolph, having been hurt by a barb from his killing strike, slashed the remaining one, and drained away some of its life energy into him. Duvafoodle meanwhile was able to channel his favorite fireball spell, turning MoK into a scorched force. Given how many times he had intentionally burned his friends, it was a wonder he had yet to gift them all with rings to resist fire.

The barbed devil decided that it was time to use one of its more potent abilities. It said a single infernal word, and suddenly a blazing purple light seared across the room. The Order's Wrath brought pain to everyone, and Panian found himself simply too dazed to do anything. Jansaadi fired more arrows into the beast, while Rudolph used a vanguard strike to cut away more of the devil's life force. Duvafoodle, high upon his carpet blasted it with his warlock energy. Left and right the devil was hit as MoK threw all their might against it. Finally, Panian saw a clear cut for its spine, and he swung his axe with no mercy, ending the devil's existence.

After a few healing blasts, the four moved on to the only other door on the upper level. As they approached, Panian saw the image of a scythe slashing him in two, and he knew that a great battle was only inches away. The door was made of metal, but Rudolph had a crusader strike for just such things as he used his mountain hammer technique to cleave through part of it like a knife through butter. A second mountain hammer bashed in the doors, and they readied themselves for what was on the other side.

They saw an emaciated demon that looked very much like a bat, but with long legs. One of its arms ended, not in a hand, but rather a scythe made of bone. He said his name was Nihil and that he would destroy them. Panian declared his own name "Panian Eats-What-He-Sees, and at the moment he was looking upon Nihil. " With that, the barbarian charged in, declaring the devil would soon join its relatives. And Nihil almost did. So surprised at the ferocity of the charging half-orc, he could not get his arm up to deflect the mighty axe as it sheared through skin and bone, making a Y cut that would make a pathologist jealous. Seeing the devil barely standing, Rudolph called to Iomadae for holy energy and destroyed Nihil with a divine surge. As the bat-like thing fell, a chain suddenly appeared on its leg and then broke apart.

There remained only one set of double doors to explore on the second level, and it was there that MoK went, hoping to find the fourth spirit anchor. Upon entering, Rudolph could not help but feel the hand of Zon-Kuthon in all the surrounding as they had just entered into an unholy church to the god of darkness. After searching a few rooms, they came to one where a mummy was on one knee in prayer. He said his name was Prelate Aruth, and asked if MoK were worshippers of Zon-Kuthon? When Duvafoodle said they venerated Olidishiver, the Aruth said that they would be destroyed for invading his unholy sanctuary.

Aruth mumbled as few words and send a flamestrike MoK's way, burning then all with fire and the divine wrath of Zon-Kuthon. The five specters, who had been surrounding the prelate, all took up positions to defend their liege, while only two moved in to attack Rudolph. Both missed touching the crusaders soul. Panian spit on his axe head and slew one of the specters. He then attempted to do the same to a second one, but the axe simply passed through its transparent form. Rudolph's blade did find solid ectoplasm as his blade sliced home. Jansaadi, her hatred for undead burning bright, fired her arrows into the same one and downed it.

Duvafoodle meanwhile had been calling to Olidammara for aid. He shone his holy symbol in the direction of the remaining three specters and they screamed as the holy light consumed them entirely. Seeing his allies gone, Aruth again sent a flamestrike at MoK, searing their flesh. Luckily Jansaadi was able to jump aside from the magic, escaping any harm. Panian charged in, but the flames were still flickering before his eyes, and he missed the target. Rudolph however was more fortunate as he too charged in and hit the mummy, taking away some of its existence and sending it into Panian to heal his wounds. Jansaadi peppered the mummy with arrow after arrow, making it impossible for Aruth to counter with any spell. He thus tried to punch Rudolph, but Iomadae's celestial armor deflected the blow. A last axe hit, four arrows, and divine surge were enough to truly destroy it. With no chain materializing, that meant their foe was further in the chapel.

Soon they entered an enormous room with a statue of Zon-Kuthon himself on the other side of an alter littered with bones. Upon the walls were hundreds, upon hundreds of spiked chains. Behind the statue, the wall shimmered, almost as though it was not a wall at all, but a field of force. From afar, Duvafoodle cast a detect magic, and noted that one of the bones on the alter radiated necromantic magic. He decided to cast a spell from his rod of wonder, causing the room to erupt in a torrent of rain. As the water droplets struck a certain magical skull on the alter, it stirred to unlife. The single skull that was Zev Revenka rose and he gazed upon the intruders with his demilich eyes.

There was a famous story known to all adventurers of how many year ago, a band of heroes had been walking in a dungeon. Upon the ground they came across a simple skull with teeth make of gems. The group could have simply walked by the skull without incident, yet for reasons lost to time, one of the adventurers decided to kick the skull. That seemingly innocent act awoke the entity that was the demilich. And it had destroyed the entire group.

That story suddenly resurfaced to the minds of those whom had heard the tale, and thus MoK became truly frightened at the small skull leering at them from above the alter. It sent a keening wail throughout the room, making everyone's ears bleed. And then there was a thump, as Jansaadi's mind simply exploded and she fell dead to the ground.

Panian moved in, and hit the skull with all his might, but was shocked as his arms rang. The demilich's unholy energy gave it almost impenetrable resistance to any weapons, and it escaped with barely a nick in its bones. Duvafoodle quickly rushed to Jansaadi's dead body and cast a revivify spell, causing her spirit to stay within the body to bring life back to her. Rudolph, seeing Panian's trouble at piercing the demilich's defense, decided to channel his mountain hammer. This allowed his sword to pass through the innate barriers blocking blades and he cut the skull nearly in two.

Zev looked upon Rudolph and said his soul would be his. For a moment, the crusader felt his soul being drawn from his body towards one of the demilich's teeth. He fought with all his will, and managed to resist the trap the soul spell. Panian meanwhile called to the gods of strength to guide his strike. He brought his axe blade down, and the magic of his Hilt of Dismemberment kicked in as he obliterated the demilich with one swing. From there, a chain suddenly appeared over one of the bone fragments and then shattered. It was time to face off against the one who truly haunted Scarwall.

MoK went to the second level where they had seen the blue outline of four chains on a door. The light of each had been extinguished and so they burst in. There they saw a large room with a pit of fire in the center. And on the other side was a phantom like being with five chains daggling from it. He said his name was Mithrodar, and that as MoK had destroyed all of his spirit anchors, he would create new ones with their souls.

Jansaadi quickly fired off a volley of arrows, but was surprised as only one barb actually pierced the spirit's defenses. To the shock of all, that ghastly wound regenerated of its own accord. Mithrodar then lashed out with all five chains. Rudolph dodged two of them, but the others hit home and hit hard. They also drained away some of Rudolph beauty. The crusader moved in, jumping left and right to avoid the reaching chains and hacked hard at the spirit. Panian followed his leader's example but his own axe passed through the transparent being. Duvafoodle blasted away with his warlock might, and frowned as he hit the wall behind.

Jansaadi again fired her arrows, but again only one arrow hit home, with the others passing harmlessly through Mithrodar. Chains flew at Rudolph again, inflicting major wounds. This time however, he was ready for the draining affect and used his willpower to resist the pull. Both Panian and Rudolph moved in to flank the spirit but it did little good as Rudolph's blade passed through, while Panian only got in a small hit. Duvafoodle then threw a moonbolt but it passed through harmlessly. Yet it seemed second by second there was always at least one MoK member who shined and in this case Jansaadi's next arrow barrage found solid matter to hit, greatly wounding Mithrodar.

The spirit continued its focus on Rudolph, siphoning away more beauty and inflicting more wounds. All the MoK members missed in their subsequent attacks, opening the door for Mithrodar to finish off Rudolph. Three chains wrapped around the crusader, draining away the last remnant of beauty he had, and the warrior fell unconscious to the ground. Mithrodar also sent a chain reaching Duvafoodle's way, causing the gnome to yelp in pain.

Panian continued harassing the spirit, hoping that his magical hilt would kick in again and end the fight. He got in another small wound but it healed up before his eyes. Duvafoodle sent a spiritual dagger to help in the battle and Jansaadi continued her brilliance by wounding it with more arrows. That last barrage seemed to stagger the chained spirit, but there was nowhere for him to flee as he was trapped in the room by the magic of Zon-Kuthon. He lashed out at Panian who dodged all but one chain, then countered with an axe hit of his own. A last flurry of arrows finally destroyed the spirit, ending the battle. As Mithrodar fell, there was the sound of ten thousand screams as the souls trapped in Scarwall, were finally free to go onto the afterlife.

After healing up, the four decided to scout out the shimmering wall. Much to their relief it was now open, as there was no other place to search out. As they entered they came to a room with a hole in the floor, blue mist rising from it. Above, a huge eyeball with bat wings hovered. It looked to them and asked which of the four would become the new curate of the temple. Curious, they asked what it would entail. The nightwing responded by saying it would involve many years of training with Zon-Kuthon himself. What went unsaid was the years of torture that would entail as well.

There was no dealing with such undead menaces however. Jansaadi peppered three arrows into the bulbous nightwing, while Panian jumped upon the flying carpet and slashed at one of its wings. Pushing the pain aside, it sent a cone of cold to blanket MoK in icy burns. Duvafoodle sent a hail of gems up at the nightwing's and Panian's way, injuring them both. Jansaadi again fired off her arrows, with only one connecting. Panian connected again, then flew down to give Rudolph the chance fly up and divine surge the beast. The power of Iomadae nearly destroyed the nightwing with that single sword hit. A follow-up mountain hammer finally downed the flying menace.

There was still no sign of the Hand of Iomadae, so that meant the hole in the floor was the only option. Rudolph was the first to jump into the hole, and his friends listened for his all clear signal; an all clear that never came. Everyone jumped in after another and each found the themselves falling for miles and miles before coming to a near deadly stop. Somehow surviving the fall, Duvafoodle blasted everyone with healing. They looked up to see something strange. The hole they had fallen through was only thirty feet up.

They currently found themselves in a massive chamber filled with an underground lake. In the middle of the water was a shining beacon in the dark: the Hand of Iomadae. The light illuminated a large ripple that started getting closer and closer. From the depths emerged a hideous creature with a manlike upper body and crablike lower body. This was the abomination that was Kleestad; the man who had been cursed by Zon-Kuthon for his betrayal of Kazavon in leading Mandraivus and his band through the secret passage and onto the dragon’s doorstep. Wracked with constant pain, and bound to defend the Hand of Iomadae, he moved upon those who would free the sword from its resting place.

Jansaadi let arrows fly, but saw little effect as the beast was simply to enormous to down with a single volley. Panian let fly three javelins, but all of them bounced off its armored hide. Duvafoodle too missed with his eldritch blast and Rudolph was simply out of range for any attack. Kleestad finally emerged from the water completely and lunged at Panian. The big man dodged under one of the beast legs, but did get clipped by a reaching claw that tore some muscle completely off of the barbarian.

Jansaadi sent another two arrows into Kleestad's hide, and Panian plunged a longspear right into its gut. Duvafoodle blasted the beast with a moonbolt draining away a little bit of its strength. Rudolph meanwhile jumped upon the flying carpet and flew over to grab the Hand of Iomadae. Kleestad screamed in rage and spewed forth a wave of acid upon the crusader's fellow MoK members.

With sword in hand, Rudolph charged in and cut at Kleestad's back with the holy bastard sword. Despite the damage, it was clear that Kleestad was a creature with a lot more fight in itself. As MoK had a greater mission at hand, they all agreed that it was time to leave. And so, after giving a nod to Duvafoodle, he used the unicorn horn to teleport everyone to the grove of Ehlonna, goddess of the woodlands and mother to Jansaadi.



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