Storms over Kelerak, Part III - Page 5 - Myth-Weavers

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Storms over Kelerak, Part III

   
Yeah, that all makes sense to me. The heroes in "Storms" aren't as powerful as the Lords of the West, nor are they intended to be. So the deadly traps in "Hold of the Lich Lord" could have been beefed up by the time the LotW get there because of the "Storms" group's invasion of Carn Keller.

OK, so plan has changed a smidge. Based on how much crap we've had to deal with the last few days, there's no way I'll be able to finish this in time for the March update - my mind just isn't in the game. April, sure, no problem. At least unless the house tries to burn down again. Ever seen a man try to use a water extinguisher on an electrical fire? Helluva thing I tell you. Yeah, this time the local safety officers are us, not that moron.

Damn it! just kidding. No worries. April is good.

In the devastated garrison camp, a very humbled Gevan knelt before his lord`s fuming guest, too frightened to protest the accusations of incompetence and stupidity being hurled at him. He might have had the courage had it been one of the oluks. The greater orcs were intimidating creatures to be sure, but they were only mortal, a trait that had once even belonged to his dread lord.

The same was not true for the otherworldly entity that hovered before him, its small size and fragile appearance belying resilience and experience beyond that of ordinary creatures. The horrors its eyes had beheld were infinitely greater and more terrible than anything Gevan (And perhaps even his master? he dared to wonder) would ever have to endure.

"Now stop your grovelling and explain yourself!" it finally commanded.

Gevan gabbled out words that almost arranged themselves into sentences. His fear did not translate into understanding particularly well, and the dark expression on his interrogator`s face grew ever blacker by the syllable. The overseer forced himself to stop and take a breath.

When he resumed his explanation, it became clearer to him how easily he had been deceived. The adventurers had played on his expectations and fears perfectly, their true purpose at Carn Marrot unknown and all the more frightening for it. Overseer Gevan no longer believed that they intended anything good for his master, and trembled at the thought of what punishments might be in store for him. Even so, he had enough spine in him to remain focused now, and to describe the quartet that had humiliated him.

"There were four of them. A drow of Orland was one, a vicious killer who strangled Reinhardt like he was no more than a puppy, just because my man mispronounced his Mordularian. I had every arrow and bolt in the camp aimed at him and he did not care, except to avenge the insult. There was also a Zelish halfling, more than just a gutter runner. An assassin, she must have been, trained by the best."

"Those two were just guards though. The boss of the group was some kind of dark dwarf, a pale and hairless freak from the deepest unlit regions. I think he must have been a derro, because duergar are still as hairy as common dwarves. He was riding on a palanquin of sorts. It was strapped to the back of a huge, bronze-skinned, female humanoid. She had a sword nearly my size tied-"

He was suddenly interrupted with a curt: "Stop. Repeat that last description."

Gevan swallowed hard and complied, "A huge, bronze-skinned, female humanoid."

Silence reigned for a few moments. It was broken by a wrathful syllable, spoken in the primeval language of fiends that hurt Gevan`s soul more than his ears, a curse older than life itself and as inimical to it as the unbound energies of the outermost planes.

"Empty the garrison," the fiend instructed him, already rising into the air. "Move to the keep at once. If the town rebels, it can be pacified later."

Gevan bowed even lower than before, a feat impressive in itself, and did not rise until the sound of frantic wingbeats had faded away. He had no wish to meet again whatever monsters had so upset his lord`s guest. He also knew that he had no choice in the matter. Gevan`s only hope at redeeming himself for his failure in allowing them to breach his lord`s defences was to bring down the wrath of the loyal troops on them.

Ooh boy. What is the gang up to?

I must be mistaken, Marchosias thought to himself, winging his way back to Carn Marrot as fast as he could. They would not dare to show their face here. Jaef is far too powerful a foe for them - even in life, he was beyond them! No, I must be mistaken. It must simply be another quartet of adventurers out of the east that almost exactly match their description!

The imp knew better than to believe his own desperate lies. There was no real doubt, for had those four not been the reason for his latest contract? Orders from a devil vastly higher up in Hell`s hierarchy had been passed down to him, to act as a check against some unacceptable irritant in the mortal realm. The assignment had started well, and since then had been nothing but trouble.

Marchosias had been assigned to corrupt a warlock coven, and had succeeded admirably with his ostensible new master Naxartes. Then the coven had needed to call in outside help to deal with a growing local problem and those insufferable four adventurers had shown up. Only Naxartes had survived the assault they had unleashed on the coven afterwards. Then the efforts to rebuild from the criminal class of Elder Daven had been stymied by them, and an exasperated Naxartes had demanded they relocate elsewhere.

Now the same four had appeared in Kelerak, bringing an end to more of their allies. Niklaus the Demoniac had been an old correspondent, and Marchosias had been sent to him with an eye to formalising an alliance. They had killed Niklaus so completely that only the gods could intervene to bring him back. And now here they were, in Dessingrove, moving in on the lich himself, under whom Marchosias had first served as a familiar when Jaef was still alive, and for whom he had vouched when the wizard sought sponsorship to ascend into lichdom - before, for whatever reason, the change of name to Afej.

This was no coincidence. It could not be coincidence. Whatever fleeting doubts the imp had had of those adventurers being the irritant he had been sent to keep in check - and there had not been too many of those of late - were now decidedly gone from his thoughts.

Carn Marrot loomed large out of the night before him, and Marchosias noted that despite the main gates still being sealed, there was an absence of life and activity that suggested the chaos that had engulfed the garrison had managed to make its way up here as well. There was no time to waste.

He flew up and over the walls, looking down into the courtyard around which the keep was built. The dead and dying were piled high, some being feasted on by the surviving ghouls and zombies that Afej conducted his research upon, and he knew that the same scene was being played out elsewhere in the keep. None of that mattered, however, only that Afej was informed at once of the intruders, and Marchosias darted through one of the few unblocked windows of a rear tower, hurtling up the stairs into the portal chamber.

In midair, like he had hit an invisible wall, he stopped and stared its new occupants. Three of them he recognised at once, and only the half-elf gave him momentary pause, for that one was magically disguised as a drow by a truly ridiculous hat. He stared at the four, and they stared back with equal recognition, all shocked to stillness by each other`s presence here. For a few moments, the imminent violence seemed almost too much effort for any to break from this startled paralysis.

Then the solid oaken door in the eastern wall swung open, granting a brief glimpse of the arcane laboratory beyond, and the tortured shamblers within that were the current subjects of unspeakable experimentation. Before the door closed again, one of the darker shadows in that dreadful place emerged into the larger chamber.

It floated just off the floor, clad in ethereal robes stitched together of silently screaming souls, about its neck hanging a vaguely more solid talisman of writhing sinews pulling at the desiccated heart to which they were attached. An iron crown of web-like spires rose above a putrid yellowed skull, cruel eyes like embers glowing in their deep sockets. A heavy miasma hung about the imposing skeletal figure, viscous, corrupting; in its wake staining the flagstones the sickly pale green of diseased corpses, stone cracking and then melting back together as the undead horror passed.

In its fleshless hands lay an open grimoire, its twisted runic script detailing rituals and ceremonies that even the foulest of beings would blanch to perform. Since its creation, generations of suffering had been wrought across the planes, dealt out with equal fervour to the good and evil alike. And, without looking up from this dread tome, speaking in the grim sepulchral tones of the long-dead, Afej the Black made himself known:

"Ah Marchosias, excellent timing! As you can see, I have some new guests and we would be most interested in hearing your input on this treatise."

[deadpan] Hmm, how interesting. Imps have lower mental stats than liches. I'm sure that's not relevant.

My man the imp is back, and the heroes look to be in deep doodoo. Awesome! I’m on tenterhooks here.







 

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