Monday, January 9, 2012

EPISODE 63: Escape from the Keepers

Maya 4, 754 YE


In the dungeons beneath the Dark Reliquary, home of the demonic Fallen and the undead-worshipping Forsaken, and at least a few members of the mysterious Keepers of the Faith organization...

It is only a few moments after the demon lord Ochremeshyk exits the Cruciform Prison that Emeris the shade, Vatex the urban ranger, and Dziga the shadow-rogue hear sounds of battle erupt outside. Seeing as the big red demon is thoroughly occupied, Dziga hastily exits his cell and grabs the magic keys from the dead guard. He then releases his friends and they retrieve their equipment from the chest in the guard room. Fully equipped, they return to the prison and release all the prisoners.

Except Calista. Her cell door is made of black adamantine layered with an aura of invisible force. Its complex locking mechanism is completely alien even to Dziga. She says only Drusii carries the key to her cell. Vatex declares they will simply hunt down Drusii and kill her, but surprisingly Calista protests. She avers quite convincingly that they are simply too weak to defeat the mighty Drusii. “Long have I yearned to be free, but even I must understand that now is not my destined time to escape. All this time I have had a profound sense that there is a greater destiny planned for me, and your appearance confirms it. Please brother, promise me you will return when you are stronger! You are my only hope.”

With that, something seems to awaken within Vatex. A small multifaceted object that looks like a prism of polished glass emerges from his chest. Calista focuses on it for a moment and then it reenters Vatex’s body.

“We both carry these Talismans of Law,” she says. “It is a sign that we were chosen. Come back for me... but for now you must go!”

Vatex feels different now. He feels a power within him, a power linking the lawful aspect of his alignment to the metaphysical lawful order that structures the universe.

Falstef the angel and Tiraeg the orc are eager to escape. Falstef’s angelic spell-like powers have faded over the many thousands of years he was locked up, but once Vatex restores some of his power with various healing items, he is at least capable of fighting. When they release Cardalian the halfling, she goes totally crazy rolls around on the ground screaming about “they’re cutting me!” Thinking she is utterly insane, they abandon her. The unnamed elf, who is actually an award-winning investigative journalist named GARETH PORTER. As for Prisoner X, they try to recruit him for their big prisonbreak and break the ring of salt that seems to restrain him, but he seems unable or unwilling to communicate, and Dziga is forced to put him down with three quick arrows when he makes a motion to attack.

Then as they are about to leave the prison, they suddenly hear a familiar voice from the prison exit, over the sounds of Ochremeshyk’s battle agains the Dark Reliquary’s denizens. It yells, “Suck it, demon!” Hey, that’s Early!

Suddenly the warblade stumbles into the doorway, half-naked and filthy, hands covered in blood, and carrying the severed head of some unfortunate demon. It seems Early had been captured as well... and he too had escaped from a torture room a few doors down the hall, albeit in a less fancy way. They learn that Early had been tricked by a merchant who’d turned out to be an agent of the Keepers of the Faith, and captured by him. He’d actually been in the Cruciform Prison before they showed up... but for the last 18 or so hours they have been beating him, burning him, and pulling out his toenails.


So the reunited Rosegate Company and their hodgepodge squad of escapees head out of the prison to the dark dungeons. They note the vestibule to the north is full of carnage as Ochremeshyk is assailed by all sorts of Dark Reliquary inhabitants as he fights his way to the exit. Ochremeshyk explodes them with powerful magic or simply hacks them apart with his sword. Many demons teleport into the fray, take a nasty hit, then immediately teleport away, only to be replaced by others. Then the Dark Reliquary’s two balors arrive on the scene, and its a balor smackdown!

Everyone wonders how they will escape if they have to cross the vestibule. Then Dziga says they need to go down to escape, and explains that Keziah showed him the way to “freedom” in his dream. Everyone concedes to trust him, but it seems terribly counterintuitive to go deeper into the Dark Reliquary’s dungeons.

One problem: they need to find Early’s stuff! Fortunately they find it after searching only a few rooms, but then as they leave the room they are attacked by a pair of vampires in the corridor! Dziga slows them down with an illusion which gives Emeris the opportunity to blast them at point blank range with killing shadows. This attack instantly destroys the rapier-wielding vampire fighter and weakens the vampire sorceress. She powers up a defensive spell but then Dziga hits her in the throat with an arrow. This triggers her defensive magic which fires a blast of dark energy along the path taken by the rogue’s arrow. Dziga leaps aside just as he fires another shot. As the vampire tries to pull the first arrow from her throat, the second takes her in the face and she bursts into vampiric vapor.

At the other end of the corridor, two hideous kere demons comes rushing towards them. They look like naked bald women with clawed talons like vultures for feat and spider legs sticking from her back where wings would be, and they wield nasty looking double-bladed swords. Vatex takes a hit but retaliates with a brutal onslaught with the Wind Duke swords. The Sword of Aqaa, being especially potent against chaotic evil outsiders, just hacks shit right up. The kere is gruesomely dismembered as Early smashes into the second one -- “Rabid Bear Strike!!!” blood sprays in his face as the warblade strikes a nasty blow, but it still lives, its demonic resistance having softened the blow. He hits it against, overcoming resistance with Elder Mountain Hammer. Emeris joins the fight and wills the Shadowgeist Reaver to appear in his hand. He swings at the nimble demon and the incorporeal blade passes through her torso with no resistance. A fraction of the demon’s lifeforce is passed into Emeris, and it is dazed by the agony. Vatex uses this opportunity to spring in and slay it with the Sword of Aqaa.

Dziga leads the way after the fight. Again they pass the battle at the Vestibule, this time seeing Ochremeshyk marked with a few not-negligible wounds and the two balors he’s fighting bleeding badly. They teleport away, then six seconds later a beautiful, black-haired woman appears in the northeast corner, and fires a wave of black energy that knocks the huge demon to the ground. Then the two Dark Reliquary balors reappear, fully healed. Another wave of lesser demons teleports in as well, and the assault is renewed as the black-haired woman vanishes.

The companions pass by and go down the stairs to the lower level. They enter a large hallway, down which they find Ralderpon, Ganbar, and Zagdok! But they are no longer dressed like Knights of the Pale. They are dressed like Keepers of the Faith, and each of their robes feature a numeral I, II, and III respectively.


The Keepers then shift to their battle forms -- and the companions find themselves fighting three battle forms just like Relegin! Well, Relegin had looked a little bigger and stronger than these, but they could not overlook the fact that Relegin had put down Vatex (maybe even two Vatexes, depending on how you look at it), put down Dziga, then nearly put down Early as well back in one fateful battle down in the Banewarrens. Now they would face three such Keepers!

Early and Vatex rush Ralderpon. As the elf springs forward, a lashing tentacle from Ganbar pierces his shoulder, and Ralderpon winds up a huge punch that clocks him in the face. He stumbles but lunges and stabs, triggering his magic vest for an extra attack. He dives to the side as Ralderpon takes another swing at him. Ralderpon attacks Vatex full-on. One tentacle pierces his shoulder, another goes through the side of his abdomen. The displacement cloak saves him from a nasty hit aimed at his face, and he ducks under one claw but the other hooks him in the back. As Ralderpon forces the elf back on his heels, four deep cuts slice into him as Early attacks with the Rabid Wolf Strike. As the Keeper stumbles back gushing blood, Early takes an unexpected low swipe. Cryssaegrym hacks deep into Ralderpon’s ankle, then pulls free to block a piercing tentacle strike.

Emeris rushes forth, his hands becoming charged with power. He extends his hands and an umbral ray hits Zagdok square in the chest, a wound that jets hot blood. Zagdok rushes the shadowcaster and hits him with a series of tentacle attacks. Bleeding heavily, the shadowcaster Emeris calls upon his shade powers and creates 7 duplicate images of himself to draw attacks.

Dziga advances, loosing arrows as he slips in and out of shadows. Somehow, Gandar still manages to see him and assaults Dziga with an array of attacks. He avoids the grabbing claws but three tentacle attaks pierce his body.. As his blink armor saves him from another nasty hit, then he remembers that Relegin had extremely keen senses. He falls back into shadow and drinks his special elixir of hiding.

As Dziga vanishes from sight, Falstef charges in against Ganbar with a glaive taken from a dead demon upstairs and hacks at the Keeper. Tiraeg follows, brandishing the fiery rapier taken from the blasted vampire upstairs. His emotion obviously got the better of him, for he is in no physical condition to fight, being totally emaciated. Ganbar’s tentacle lashes out and pierces his skull, killing him instantly on approach.

Emeris needs to heal, but instead he hustles to reposition for an attack, letting his mirror images absorb the opportunity attacks. Drawing power from within and heightening it with his metashadow rod and ring, tenebrous energy begins flaring around him. “METASHADOW MAXIMIZE...EMPOWER... KILLING SHADOWS!!!”

A wave of pure shadowy destruction erupts from Emeris’ eyes, hitting both Ganbar and Zagdok. Their powerful spell resistance provides no defense. Chunks of flesh are torn from the Keepers’ bodies and the floor is covered in green from their blood. Emeris then fires another umbral ray before shadow jumping down the hallway, out of the fight to drink a healing potion.

Ralderpon is flanked by Early and Vatex and in trouble. The elf aggressively goes for the kill, his blades striking vital organs five times with a flurry that overwhelms the Keeper. Ralderpon takes a few steps forward, reaching for the elf with his big claws, then falls over dead.

Undetectable to the remaining Keepers, Dziga fires at the bloodied enemies as the dust settles after Emeris’ attack. One of his arrows hits Zagdok in the side of the head, and he begins stumbling around clumsily. Falstef is caught by one of Zagdok’s wild swinging claws, but he recovers and slashes thrice with his own weapon at Ganbar, who screams. Early uses the Elder Mountain Hammer against Ganbar, which explodes through the Keeper’s chest, killing him, but he takes a nasty hit in the process. Vatex rushes forward and slays the crippled Zagdok with a final blow.


The group is bleeding from many wounds, however they are given no time to rest as another demon stumbles upon the scene. It has a body like a burly dude with shaggy brown hair, four arms wielding swords and axes, and a big ape-like head. But then the ape-head opens its mouth wide and reveals a human head inside! It is a carnevus demon, and it gives them a strangely pleasant greeting before starting to speak unbelievably fast with its mouth-within-a-mouth. A fireball launches from its chest into the corridor -- Early and Vatex are caught in the blast but Dziga manages to jump clear with his unnatural deftness. Vatex lunges towards the carnevus and stabs into it with the Storm Sword. Then Emeris reappears nearby, firing an umbral ray blasts a smoking hole in the monster’s shoulder.

Then another demon, a solomoth, enters from the other side. It is a big fat disgusting creature, with a disturbing baby-like face, whose giant belly seems to contain many screaming heads whose expressions of horror can be made out in the indentations of the demon’s belly flesh. It thrusts its own hand into its abdomen, causing burning blood and slime to spray out. It rummages around in the disgusting contents of its belly then pulls out a flaming, screaming head that drips with slimy gore. Dziga hits it with an arrow, but still the demon hurls its disgusting projectile at Early. The warblade snarls and fires a few shots at the demon, whole returns the favor by throwing a flaming head at Dziga. His armor blinks at the right moment and it sails through him. Dziga triggers his haste boots and disappears, helped by his elixir. The solomoth looks on stupidly a rapid volley of arrows seemingly shoots out of nowhere and into its engorged stomach. Its flaming slimy blood sprays everywhere. Then demon explodes in a shower of burning putrescence.

Vatex finds himself focusing intently against the carnevus’ four-armed assault of blades. The demon is fast and deadly, impossibly so. It begins yammering another rapid spell but Vatex interrupts the effect with a strike before it completes. The carnevus makes ten attacks! Vatex’s cloak of displacement shifts him to avoid one blow and he dodges or blocks all but one of the others! Early is badly injured, but he wants to spill more demon blood. As Emeris fires more umbral rays at the demon, Early hacks into it, following up with an unexpected blow. Vatex’s brutal assault finishes the nasty demon.


They then navigate a creepy side passage where clawed hands burst from the wall to grab at trespassers. Dziga and Vatex tumble through, Emeris shadow jumps, and Early uses a potion of flying to get himself, Falstef, and Gareth Porter across.

They pass a room of magical darkness. Before them is a massive set of double doors, beyond which they can hear the most awful, inhuman screams of agony. At the side is a distinctively older door. They pass through it, and into an old storage room that seems to never be used by the denizens of the Dark Reliquary. Down the hall they find a chamber that seems to be an old shrine of some kind. Its walls are painted with intricate images of various demons and eldritch horrors. Everyone in the room feels an indescribable sense of dread, which seems to emanate from the old well in the center of this chamber. The dream of Keziah seems to have been accurate. However, the well is fitted with a massive iron plug that would be difficult to move. Dziga and Vatex locate a hidden lever around the sealed well which opens a secret entrance into a strange spherical room below.

Dziga goes down to investigate. He finds a panel, hits a switch, and discovers this spherical room is actually some kind of elevator. The chamber seals, cutting him off from the others, and he begins to descend.

An indeterminate amount of time passes. Dziga’s senses seem clouded. His head is pounding. A profound, ineffable sense of evil emanates from below. He reaches the bottom and a part of the wall slides away to reveal a circular room. It is obvious the place is not a natural cavern, but it is so old that that calcite deposits dripping from the stones have formed stalagmites and stalactites over time. The air is dangerously cold, and the walls and floors are damp and slippery.

Strange spectres drift around the room, barely recognizable as human because of their extreme deformities, but they do not seem hostile. Dziga exits the circular room into a long corridor shaped like a horizontal cylinder. The darkness and cold seems especially deep here. The passage extends farther east than Dziga’s enhanced vision can detect. On either side of him it a set of very large double doors made of strange black metal.

Then, one of the doors on the south side opens slightly. For some reason, Dziga feels as if it had opened to _welcome_ him.

Dziga passes through the open door, and goes around an unsettling pit in the center of a large cavern. Somehow, he senses that there is something on the other side that he must see. And yet, the great sense of evil grows stronger as he proceeds.


Beyond, the next cavern looks like it was melted with acid or something. In the center of it is a 30 foot tall idol that looks like an obelisk but is composed entirely of writhing black tendrils. Dziga hears what he thinks is an unintelligible whisper, then a strange object appears within the tendrils and is held out.

“You must take it for us,” says Jenkins, who has suddenly appeared at Dziga’s feet. “We need it.”

“What is it? Why do you want it?”

“It is special gift to us,” the fiendish rat familar replies.

Dziga approaches the writhing spire and takes the object, which is a black metal cube, about 3 inches to a side. Or at least, almost a cube. As Dziga looks at it, some of the sides look less-than-straight. Or maybe not. He can’t be sure. It seems hard to focus on the cube. There are also various chaotic squiggles etched on the cube, which might be writing of some sort, but when Dziga tries to focus on them his head hurts and he feels nauseous.

When Dziga begins to walk out of the cave, and sees Jenkins’ head sticking out from a small crevice in the wall. “Good!” he says with a creepy smile. “You hold in your hand an Impossibility Cube.”

“Impossibility Cube? What does it do?” asks the rogue.

“It has many purposes. Most importantly, it is a BEACON.”

“A beacon for what?” Dziga asks. Jenkins says nothing. “Damn you Jenkins, answer me! I don’t know what you freaks are planning, but this cube is mine now. I’m not giving it to you. If Keziah or the Black Man won’t tell me what’s going on, they’re just going to have to try and take it.”

“But we don’t want to take it from you,” Jenkins says. “We want YOU to have it.” With that, he retreats into the hole in the wall, leaving Dziga cold and confused in the cave with a weird cube in his frozen hands.


Above, Vatex is able to trigger the elevator to return to the top. While they wait, a thought occurs to Falstef that seems to concern him greatly. “If that goes where I think it goes,” he says, “we should definitely not go down there.”

“What exactly do you think is down there?” asks Early.

Falstef replies, “A temple of incredible evil that is so ancient, it has existed here since the birth of this world.”

But what choice to they have? Back through the Dark Reliquary, and get killed in the crossfire between that demon lord and everyone else? Or down and out through the old evil temple? Everyone hops in the elevator and rides to the bottom, oblivious to the gravity of what has just transpired below.

NEXT TIME: What's up with that cube? Can the companions escape through this ancient temple of evil?

No comments:

Post a Comment