Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 14

At the mention of ‘undead Dragons’ Vellk shudders a bit, knowing true fear for the first time in a long while. Thinking of his family and many others just like them out there with no protection from this kind of evil. “I agree we need to punish these defilers before they cause more trouble.”  He had quite enjoyed smashing things in the laboratory.

Lanaver slips down the spiral stair, stopping as it opens into yet another room.  This chamber’s walls are painted to look like the inside of a dragon’s lair, the scenes range from depictions piles of treasure, robed acolytes bowing in supplication, bound prisoners being served up as a meal.

The paintings focus toward the alcove in the south wall, where a pile of real gold coins form a nest large enough for a dragon to slumber upon.  Each of the four walls also has a large glyph, glowing softly in the dark of the room. In the northwest corner of the room, a teleportation circle has been etched into the floor.

The lack of wear on the etchings implies that the circle was created very recently. A thick metal rod, inscribed with sigils stands in the middle of the circle. Lying on the floor in different parts of the room are 4 dead bodies. Although the bodies look roughly humanoid, they are stitched together from various parts, including some that appear to be draconic in nature. Each one has some semblance of draconic features, such as small wings, tails, and elongated necks.

Rowan stops and stares, fascinated and repulsed by the stitched-together bodies on the floor. “Sebastian, what … what are they?”

“Zombies are my guess, animated bodies, far harder to put down than skeletons. Clerics are the best fighting these filth.”  Sebastian says, “Both the glyphs and the corpses radiate necromantic power.  They appear to be linked, the glyphs are a trap that will animate the dead if they are tampered with.”

“Then how can we disable this?”  Rowan asks, “Do you think that someone has left by this device? Or was something or someone going to be brought here? I feel as if we must destroy this place, just as we destroyed the laboratory.”

“I think we need to find a way to get this treasure out of here!” Lanaver says, his practical avarice showing itself as usual.

Rowan smiles at him, “Yes, indeed! That gold can be well used I imagine.”

“From the looks of things, each of these glyphs must be disabled separately.”  Sebastian explains, “I think Rowan and I have the best chance of disarming these magical runes, however we will need protection from those poor souls as I am fairly certain that any interaction with them at all will activate their macabre protectors.”

Hajima steps up to Sebastian and Rowan. “Do what has to be done to disarm the runes. I will fight any zombies that try to interfere.” Hajima then loosens the sword in his sheath and readies a bolt into his heavy crossbow. He then pauses and removes the bolt. He reaches into his shoulder pouch he takes out a set of specially modified ammunition that appears to have a small bundle wrapped around the head of the arrows.

The familiar smell of oil comes from the bolts. Hajima takes up a position that gives him the most range and the best angles to fire on each zombie when it animates. He sets out three more fire bolts within easy reach and then lights a torch next to him.

“When you are ready to begin, I will shoot each corpse with flammable bolts in rapid succession. That should slow them down and give you the advantage you need.” Hajima brings the torch closer to the first flammable bolt already loaded in his massive crossbow, ready to light it. He looks at Sebastian with a grin. “Which rune do you want to try first?”

“I’ve always been partial to the left.” Sebastian says with a grin “Ready when the rest of you are!”

Lanaver pulls out a pouch and scatters a double handful of metal balls in front of Hajima.  “These little beauties have saved me more than once!  Can’t hurt right?” He readies rapier and dagger and supports Hajima on the zombie approach.

Rowan gives her friends a tight, determined smile and begins to play an angry tune on her flute with sharp thrills that ends in a low thrumming vibrato note.  A playful shimmer of light flickers over the zombies as Rowan’s magic takes effect.  “That will make them slower and clumsier than they already are, the great lumps.”  She says with satisfaction.

With that, Hajima ignites the arrow and fires it into the nearest zombie to the left. As the flaming bolt hits the dormant zombie, the four glyphs begin to glow with sinister light.  Fell magic reanimates the draconic zombies and they rise, shambling toward them with lumbering steps.

Sebastian runs over and magically disables the first glyph as one of the undead constructs slips the metal balls Lanaver scattered, flailing about in confusion.  The flaming zombie lurches toward Sebastian with an inarticulate moan of hunger as he tries furiously to disarm more glyphs. It reaches the wizard and slams him into the wall. Another zombie runs toward Hajima, its meaty fist striking him in the back as he is working the reloading crank on his crossbow.  Lanaver deftly jumps aside of the last zombie’s attack.

Vellk swings his axe the zombie nearest him, cutting off the zombie’s crude, draconic hand. Rowan moves up to a glyph to disarm it, ducking under an attack from one of the zombies. She successfully disables the second glyph with quick efficiency.

Tuskor notices that two of the zombies are moving erratically and realized they can’t see. He shouts, “Disable the glyphs to blind the undead filth, maybe then we can easily dispatch of them!” as the last zombie punches him in the shoulder with a rotting fist.

Lanaver moves to flank the flaming zombie, gutting it was a slashing strike of his rapier’s tip and it drops to the ground. He disengages from the melee, moving out of the chamber in the hope of attracting more zombies away from his allies. As he moves he notices the zombie he just slew beginning to twitch and it rises, moaning, from the ground, bloodied and blindly swinging its mass about.

Hajima successfully unleashes another flaming bolt, finally killing the risen zombie and then drops his crossbow, unsheathing his sword with a flourish.

Tuskor and Vellk move to flank a Zombie together. Between them they manage to sever one of its arms and break one of its legs just below the knee.  Rowan moves up and successfully disarms another glyph. The zombie next to her strikes out wildly and lands a lucky blow, slamming into the side of her head with a scaly lizard-like fist.

Sebastian moves to disarm another glyph, is attacked by one of the monsters but it doesn’t penetrate his arcane shield.  Ignoring the attack, he disarms the third arcane symbol.

Tuskor casts a spell and once again, large slithering worms creep up through the stonework and wrap around two of the remaining zombies. Vellk swings at and misses another zombie, momentarily distracted by the sight of the weird eyeless worms wrapping around his enemies.

Rowan moves through the battlefield, braving attack to get to the last glyph. A zombie, despite being blind and wounded, manages to connect a flailing fist with her shoulder, nearly knocking her over.  In spite of being hurt, she successfully disarms the last glyph.  The zombies fall to the ground unmoving, and Tuskor’s worms continue to restrain their lifeless flesh and bones.

Sebastian begins binding wounds and applying salves, seeing to Rowan first as she looks the most bruised.  Rowan looks around at the mess on the floor and shudders, but her enthusiasm can’t be held down for long and she smiles beamingly at her friends.

“That was brilliant!  Sebastian, thank you for the healing, those zombies dealt me quite a lot of pain. I seem to be more able to handle it, though. I think spending time with all of you experienced warriors is helping me to gain strength, or courage, or something.” She whistles a happy tune, trying to distract her from the extreme creepiness of this experience, and of the body parts laying about the ground. “Ugh. They really are disgusting, aren’t they?”

“We should likely destroy this last circle also shouldn’t we?”  Vellk asks, pointing at the teleportation circle set in the stone.  “Perhaps it’s just as simple as marring the circle itself.”

“Well, I certainly lack sufficient arcane power to destroy or undo the spells that created it.”  Rowan says, “It is possible that dismantling it physically would work, however you must have a care.  Sometimes releasing the energies contained within such a powerful circle can be a violent and dangerous task.”

“Well judging by the way today has gone, I think we’re probably up for ‘violent and dangerous tasks’ wouldn’t you say?”  Lanaver quips with a roguish grin.

“Ok, boys, let’s break some rocks!”  Rowan laughs aloud, a rather strange sound in this horrible place. The Halfling looks at her rapier, her dagger, then her flute, and laughs again. “I think it’s up to you men. I’ll stand watch.”

With careful effort Tuskor and Vellk use a hammer and pry bar produced from Lanaver’s pack to mar the carvings on the floor.  Sebastian looks on, his eyes glowing once again as he watches the flow of Arcane forces, guiding them to carefully and gradually bleed the power away.  As the energies in the circle fade, the gold coins in the southern alcove flicker and change into worthless wooden disks painted gold.

“Fake treasure!? I’m madder than that stupid dragon would have been!”  Lanaver says, frowning as his words make him realize what was truly happening here.  “Necromantic magic, evil dragons, rituals involving treasure and the undead.”  The color drains from his face.  “I think it’s possible these were preliminary experiments exploring the creation of an undead dragon.  Maybe even one of the powerful undead known as a Lich.”

Sebastian nods at Lanaver. “It does sound an experiment most foul. I hope we have done well in preventing such.”

Lanaver looks at Sebastian, an expression of mild surprise on his face.  “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is a lot worse than bad, Gods and Demons man how can you be so calm?  I think they are trying to make a Dracolich!”

“Yes, Lanaver, I think so too. And so we must do everything possible to make sure they don’t succeed. We must destroy all their tools, their magic’s, their circles, and continue on, deeper into the bowels of the earth if necessary, to stop them.”

“And for anyone who doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of Dracolich let me be clear… DRAGON… LICH! It’s about as far away from okay as you can possibly get.”  Lanaver shudders and visibly forces himself to relax, “So, uh, yeah, let’s make sure this never happens.”

Rowan has gone rather pale in the dim light of her dancing lights, and her freckles stand out rather alarmingly.  She emits a rather startled squeak as Sebastian puts his hand on her shoulder.

Sebastian squeezes her shoulder comfortingly. “Bendis brought us here for even she knew such abominable use of her holy mysteries should be stopped. Just think, if it wasn’t us saving the world, who would be?”

“Bendis?”  Rowan takes a shuddering breath, philosophy allowing her to focus on something besides the horrible thought of such a powerful monster, “This feels like The Lady Tyche’s hand to me, how else were the six of us to meet at this juncture? Seems fated to me.”

“I’m sure Tyche played a part, she is a goddess of the ones who are willing to take chances like us adventures.”  Sebastian says.

Rowan looks thoughtful, “Dragons and heroes and gods, oh my!” She smiles to herself and starts humming. “I feel a song coming on.”

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2 thoughts on “Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 14

    • Thanks! I like to try and keep a good balance between making the fights exciting but not having them overpower the storytelling and dialogue. It was fun to have the writing be a collaborative event, makes each character have a deliberate and individual voice.

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