It has seemed like months, but only a few days had actually past since Gorin, Baden, Ana-Mollie and Anvak the Blessed returned from the demi-lich’s dungeon, after their resounding victory against the Sahuagin. Wearied, they stopped first at the Master of the Pier Tavern to refresh themselves. The tavern keeper, the memory of the party’s victory against the orcs and the saving of his tavern still fresh in his mind, hurriedly rushed to serve them. A lone human, a drum strapped to his back and a lute (although if one was quick enough to see his deft movements – might say loot) in his hand, stared a bit dumbfounded as the tavern keeper, who had just been talking to him, rushed to serve these bedraggled strangers.
Baden knew he should check on his foster father, and after bidding his farewells to the rest, loped off in a large barbarian gait. Gorin, bloodied and wearied from the fights, decided to take refuge at the inn. Demi-lichs had been too much for the stout fighter of simple disposition. This band seemed like they had a high purpose – but, it wasn’t his. He too bade his farewells.
No sooner had Ana sat down to sip the wine brought forth for her enjoyment, she received a message from her “Dark lord”, Richard. Richard, Chief Warlock of the Brothers of Darkness, Lord of the Thirteen Hells, Master of the Bones, Emperor of the Black, Lord of the Undead,and mayor of a little village up the coast, was a busy… entity. He did not give messages lightly, and Ana knew that she must obey with all due haste. Richard commanded her to the Black Academy to speak with the matron, Lady Vargas. Ana abruptly stood up and walked out the door.
Anvak was still not quite used to these fellow travelers on the road of this mortal plane. However, he knew from the voices in his head that his destiny was linked to theirs. He inquired as to what he should do… “follow… follow the dark, flaming one” returned the voices. Anvak shrugged, a bit of putrid green puss oozed from his ear. Nurgle (sp?) had told him to venture forth, venture forth he shall. He followed Ana out.
The man siting eating his rabbit and drinking his [insert drink of choice] waved to the tavern keeper. Good sir, I wonder if you would extend me credit for I must be going, but I will be back. The tavern keeper looked at him blankly. “I’m sorry, sir, but ye be new to these parts. Ye haven’t established credit yet.”
The man nodded, “perhaps I shall make myself more part of your establishment soon.” He threw what he owed on the table, and with a flourish… he also departed trying to see to what the other two strange persons were up. He smelled a ballad in the making – and perhaps a silver or two.
Ana reached the door of the Black Academy, which opened automatically for her. She entered. Anvak soon followed. The young human man wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. But, he thought… can’t hurt to knock. So he did. The door opened, and the brave lad stepped forth.
He was greeted by the sight of Ana talking with an older woman, a stunningly beautiful woman with jet black hair with stripes of white running through it. She had the most pale of skin he had ever seen – almost a grayish-blue tint. Anvak stood watching the two – waiting for someone to address him, or his gods to make their wishes known.
The woman, later identified to the young man as Lady Vargas, matron of the Black Academy, addressed Ana. “You have done a great service. Many have attempted the feat you undertook… they did not succeed. And you know how the dark lord feels about failure.”
Ana nodded – she knew exactly what Richard felt about failure. She stood there… whispers came into her ear. It seemed Richard was pleased. Lady Vargas asked if Ana and her friends, addressing the young human and Anvak, would aid the Black Academy with a delicate task. Ana answered right away that she would, and vouched for Anvak. However, turning to the young human, she said “I do not know him.”
Lady Vargas did not look pleased. However, the young human introduced himself as a painter of portraits and offered to paint the beautiful lady. Lady Vargas smiled. Ana quickly added she felt this one could be of use, and he was free to join them. Having vouched for him, Lady Vargas continued to speak about the task. “Long ago, King Harold ‘the Vicar’, the one that soundly defeated and routed the undead pirates, had come across a scroll that was said to lead to the origin of the undead pirates, and would provide information needed to destroy them for good. However, it was said that the information could tear the kingdom apart, and would implicate numerous noble houses. He had the scroll sealed away. However, through the efforts of the Black Academy, they came to find that it was hidden in King Harold’s tomb.” Lady Vargas introduced a student of the Black Academy, Crowe, who had been instrumental in finding this information out. He would lead them to King Harold’s tomb and help retrieve the scroll.
Before they left for the tomb, the young human left to go back to the tavern and inquire as to the undead pirates. As he left, Lady Vargas wished him well. “Teolis,” she said, “You are welcome to partake of the Black Academy’s food and services. I wish you all well.” With that she departed. Teolis, for that was indeed his name, left to inquire about the undead pirates, interviewing several old sailors. Ana headed to the archives where she too researched the undead pirates, and the scroll they were seeking. They had all agreed to meet back at the Black Academy at noon the next day to head to the tomb. Crowe went about his business, kicking the ground a bit. He really just wanted to be playing joust… not off gallivanting looking for some dumb scroll.
Anvak studied the foyer in the Black Academy. While there were numerous paintings, murals and tapestries, one especially caught his attention. The painting was entitled “In the Beginning” and contained the ancient original symbol of Zenth, founder of the Kingdom of Zenthia. As he was studying it closer, he noticed it also contained a tattered cloak figure with symbol of Nurgle emblazoned on its right front breast pocket. There were several other figures with symbols he didn’t recognize, nor really care about. He noted the information as interesting, and headed to bed.
The next day, the party set forth. They arrived without incident at the tomb. It was a giant structure with nice columns and two giant stone eagle statues out front. There was an inscription in elvish on the statues, which Teolis translated as “we could have flown you to Moredoor.” The doors to the tomb were locked, but Crowe, cracking a sly grin, winking to Ana, and snapping his fingers, made quick work of. The party entered the tomb. Anvak lit a torch and handed it to Teolis to light the way. Unwittingly, the poor bard had just become the point person… something that would cause him great regret later on.
The party passed into a finely decorated foyer with two hardened statues of warriors holding long swords and wearing the armor of the Zenthian army, with the crest of King Harold proudly emblazoned on the front. A fountain, in which an underground stream had been shaped to continuously refresh stood in the middle against the east wall, flanked by the statues. Anvak looked around. Then he looked at the floor. Then he looked at the ceiling. Suddenly, he walked over to the fountain and stuck his scythe in it. The water bubbled and green ichor flowed from his scythe into the water. He could almost imagine the screams on the other end as he smiled a disease filled smile. Withdrawing the scythe, he walked back to the party, which at this point had come to a door.
[Crowe once again flicked his fingers and the door opened.]/[Anvak walked up to the door and threw it open.] [Don’t remember who opened it.]
Inside was an ornate burial chamber. The walls were decorated with frescoes of King Harold’s battles with the undead pirates. Along the south wall, a sarcophagus lay. Along the east wall was a burial chest flanked by two statues similar to the previous two. Anvak cocked his head and looked at the statues. Without another word he took his scythe and tried to cut the sword hand off of one of the statues.
He cut deeply into it, but the material it was made from was stronger than he expected. All of a sudden both statues became animated, shaking off the dust and grime that had built on them over the ages. Their eyes burned with a fire. They attacked.
The battle waged fierce as spells were slung and rapiers danced. Crowe shot his bow, arrows of magic tearing into the golems’ hardened clay flesh. One golem landed numerous blows on Teolis, one of which crushed his rib cage, reducing him to a quivering mass of pain. Another blow put him bleeding and falling unconscious on the ground. In the middle of the fight, the other party members looked around – Crowe had vanished. In the fight of their lives, the party couldn’t stop – bolts and blasts of dark necrotic energy, fueled by each of Ana and Anvak’s dark power sources, blasted into the golems. One was reduced to rubble, the other still stood looming over them – its face ever twisted into the solemn grin-less look of a tomb sentinel. While it loomed large over Anvak, who took a mighty blow, but managed to stay his ground, an arrow whizzed by Ana’s head striking the golem and shattering him. Crowe appeared behind Ana. Winking at her, he said nonchalantly as he leaned back and blew on his well filed nails, “Well, the chest is safe.” With the golems dispatched, Crowe, Ana and Anvak were able to revive Teolis. Anvak reached deep into his tattered cloaks and produced some putrid rags and some sort of acidic wound cauterizer. The party could almost hear Teolis howling in pain through his unconscious state as his wounds stabilized, and his blood stopped spilling out of his body.
The party then searched the chest and sarcophagus and found much treasure. Most spectacular was the sarcophagus, which contained a skeletal body resplendent in the robes of King Harold, a slightly glowing longsword, and a gold and jewel encrusted crown. By his side was a scroll. Crowe instantly put on the robes, crown and waved the long sword about. “Oh look at me! I’m King Harold… laddd-ee daa..” Anvak grabbed the scroll, but it was written in a tongue he could not understand. It seemed almost… halflingish. The party thought it best to get the scroll back to the Black Academy as soon as possible for analysis. As they were gathering their loot, and reviving Teolis enough that he could shuffle off with them, Anvak cocked his head to the side, thought a bit, and then raised his hands to the ceiling. Dark energy flowed through him into the skeleton, and it sat up, its awkward skeletal grin staring at the party. It climbed out of the sarcophagus and followed behind the party – now a servant to Anvak the Blessed.
As the party was leaving the tomb to head back to the Black Academy to translate the scroll, Teolis stopped to rest his weary body on a section of the wall. It crumbled before him revealing a passage to the south. The party noted it, vowing to return and plumb its depths another day. After a grueling journey back to Kahlstaad, while Teolis was whimpering the entire way, they arrived back to the Black Academy.
To be continued…