The Depths of Tor Al’Kiir
Lightning crashed and with maddened screams twelve of the remaining 22 Crimson Wolves turned on their sword brothers in the rain. The enraged mercenaries’ lust for blood and battle could not be calmed but Tullweim knew the loss of troops at such a critical time could ill be afforded. The Aesir commander called out an order to those Wolves which had kept their sanity to strike with the flats of their blades and with a leaping charge Tullweim led the attack. Cuana let go of his own battle rage and quickly smashed the hilt of his greatsword onto the temple of a nearby berserker. Dhak again spoke words of power, but this time directed at an ensorcelled ally, and replaced screams of rage with wails of agony. Xacksmith was surrounded by the swords of former allies and deftly dodged their maddened attacks. Enaro, his feral eyes aglow, tripped several of the Wolves which allowed those that remained in control of their emotions to knock their crazed brethren out. After a few tense moments only those who controlled their senses remained standing.
The feverish pitch of dark chanting and frantic piping from below urged the mercenaries on. They knew they did not have the time to properly mend the many wounds they had suffered and quickly roused those Crimson Wolves who had been knocked unconscious. The sellswords then turned to the black opening in the ground. The stairs were rough, hewn out of the granite, lit by black iron cressets in the form of a four-horned demon head. Cuana and Tullweim were in the lead while the rest of the company trailed out into the rain. Four more guards, dressed identically to those encountered above, blocked the way. The fight was swift and brutal. Dhak mystically tormented one of the guards. Cuana quieted the anguished screams of one of the minions of Al’Kiir and cleaved into another. Tullweim brought another down with two strokes of his greatsword. The last did all he could to hold the entrance to no avail as the two barbarians mercilessly carved death into their foe.
The mercenaries moved through the granite tunnel which ended with a path to the left and a path to the right. The sellswords heard the chanting and piping come to them from the left and so decided to explore the right passage first. The passage led to a glistening cave full of dust and the debris of furnishings decayed for a millenia. It was apparent that there was once a purpose to the cave, but what that purpose was had long since been forgotten. There was another passage past this room which led to a cave which had been kept clean. Several wooden benches lined the walls. Clothing (some of it quite fine) was piled on the benches. There were several chests. Dhak and Xacksmith eagerly opened the chests but all except one were empty. The last chest held a complete suit of the demonic plate worn by the minions of Al’Kiir. The room was apparently their dressing room. The plate armor was too small for either of the barbarians and would hinder the Stygian’s and Hyrkanian’s movement so it was decided that Enaro should don it. At best he would be mistaken for one of the minions, at worst he would have better protection from enemy sword strokes.
The company moved towards the path they heard the chanting come from and came to another chamber with broken furniture. The path continued on past the room, but before the company exited, Xacksmith noticed something odd with one of the walls. He approached the wall and ran his hands along it. There was an almost imperceptible difference in the granite which suggested the wall could move. After a few moments of searching, the Hyrkanian discovered a catch and part of the wall opened, revealing a small, unlit passageway. Xacksmith moved to the end of the passageway and found a similar catch which opened the wall into another chamber. The sound of the piping was louder and while Xacksmith searched for another secret passage, Cuana and Dhak made sure nobody approached from the main passage. The Hyrkanian swore in frustration at not finding anything else and moved to the rest of the company. As they were about to trek into the hallway, Tullweim noticed a granite catch in a wall and announced it’s presence. Xacksmith pulled the catch and the wall opened as before. The company traveled through another small corridor which opened up into a larger passageway. From where the company stood they all knew they had arrived at the source of the chilling music.
Cuana, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith peeked their heads around the corner and observed the scene. At the far end of a great domed cavern, a large idol stood atop a low platform. Two tall wooden posts stood in the center of the room, each toppped by a black demon head. Tied between them was the Countess Synelle. A guard captain stood near her. Two other guards played flutes, while 16 more pounded the floor with their scabbards. Lady Julia danced madly in front of the great shadowed idol, and sung voicelessly, re-enacting a ritual invented before time. Torali stood nearby Julia and awkwardly held worn pages which Julia referenced occasionally. Katos’ ancient silver urn stood at her feet, filled with flames. The idol was 10 feet high and shaped like a man, had four curving horns, three lidless eyes, and a broad lipless mouth with needle-like teeth. Thick arms ended in jagged claws. One hand held a wicked dagger, the other a metal whip. This statue was the source of an almost painful hum piercing the sellswords’ heads. Behind the idol was a gaping pit filed with the red glow of distant flame.
Dhak and Xacksmith attempted to sneak past a group of Al’Kiir’s minions. Despite the soft footfalls and rythmic pounding of scabbards one of the guards heard the Hyrkanian. The guard turned and underneath his four-horned helm bellowed, “Intruders! Infidels!” Spurred on by the alarm, Cuana ordered several of the Crimson Wolves to follow him into the room. They were quickly met by 10 of the minions of Al’Kiir while the rest of the armored guards continued with the ceremony. Tullweim leapt into the fray with the rest of the Nemedian sellswords. Steel rang loudly in the cave and blood spurted amid death cries of cultist and mercenary.
Xacksmith moved behind an alcove. A single minion of Al’Kiir barred the Hyrkanian’s path. The two foes were poised to engage when a high-pitched painful sound reverberated from the idol, affecting Xacksmith, many of the Crimson Wolves, and some of Al’Kiir’s minions. The minion chuckled and advanced, his broadsword hacking mercilessly. It was all the Hyrkanian could do to defend himself from the onslaught of his gruesome assailant. Enaro entered the alcove and the cultist thought him a brother come to join in the battle. Feral eyes flashed beneath the horned helm when Enaro tripped the minion and struck as Dhak and a small group of Crimson Wolves closed in.
As mercenaries sundered shields, Cuana slashed and cleaved into the minions. Tullweim took the opportunity given by the ringing noise to push past the melee and rush to Countess Synelle. He was met by the cultists’ captain who taunted the Aesir, “You hulking fool. You thought to protect her, yet I brought her here. See if you can save your lady fair now!” The captain attacked with deadly skill but the Aesir’s armor prevented most of the force. Tullweim responded with brutal swings the cultist captain strained to parry. Dhak fired a poisoned arrow from his Stygian bow and struck a glancing blow to Julia. She managed to complete the last words of her ritual despite the poison weakening her.
The Avatar Awakes
All at once the ringing sound from the statue ceased. The idol began to move. A mad laugh echoed throughout the cavern chamber. Many of the warriors both Crimson Wolves and minions of Al’Kiir fell to the floor in abject terror. The avatar turned and seized Lady Julia. She screamed in panic and told the avatar that it was Synelle he wanted. The avatar then tossed Julia aside and seized the Countess, breaking her bonds. Tullweim moved past the guard captain, taking a swing from his foe as he rushed to Synelle’s aid. Dhak moved towards the distracted captain and attempted to throw a pouch of tomb dust but the minion’s leader had the reflexes of a cat. He knocked the pouch out of the still poisoned Stygian’s hand and smirked, “Pathetic fool. You think to catch me unaware?” The guard captain slashed at Dhak but the Stygian reacted with a word and gesture that turned the blade away from his throat. Enraged, the captain swung again and his blade bit deep into Dhak’s unarmored side.
Near the entrance of the chamber the cultists mercilessly executed the helpless Wolves as Cuana dealt death in kind and cleaved into another. Across the way Enaro, and the Nemedian sellswords with him rushed to aid Dhak. They were met by the group of minions who were closer to the avatar. Enaro tripped a minion, immediately hit with his mace and 2 Crimson Wolves swung their greatswords into their prone enemy. Tullweim dropped his sword, drew the royal scepter of Ophir, and allowed his fury to rise as he charged the avatar with a powerful leap. The demon roared as the scepter twice cracked Al’Kiir’s hide and caused a foul ichor to spurt. At the avatar’s agony Xacksmith, the prone Crimson Wolves and minions shook their terror off. The Hyrkanian saw the battle and rapidly fired twice from his bow at the guard captain. The first shot bounced harmlessly off the captain’s breastplate, the other struck a glancing blow to his leg. The idol’s three eyes filled with hate and the avatar struck twice with its large black dagger at Tullweim. It then bit into the Aesir and rent the armor off his shoulder. Torali screamed and raced towards the chamber entrance. Dhak stepped away from the guard captain and with a steely gaze he uttered words of power, pushing himself beyond his limits. The guard captain fell to his knees screaming as if his flesh were being flayed from his body. One of the Crimson Wolves saw this and stepped to the captain delivering a coup de grace which separated head from shoulders. The four-horned helm rolled to Dhak’s feet but the mangled visor no longer hid the face of Lord Taramenon.
Cuana moved back into the chamber entrance and ordered one of the last still-fighting Nemedian sellswords to his side. Xacksmith dropped his bow, ran to a foe and feinted with his arming sword. Enaro tripped another enemy and the 2 Crimson Wolves at his side struck twice again. The poisoned, weakened sorcerer Dhak fixed his eye upon the cultist priestess and engaged her in a war of souls. Unfortunately Julia’s will was stronger and the Stygian felt the loss of acumen he had caused to so many others to fuel his sorcerous power. Tullweim reeled from the avatar’s powerful attack but still in a fighting madness he delivered two more furious attacks which sent another roar of pain and rage to echo throughout the chamber.
Al’Kiir sluggishly grappled the Aesir, wrapping him in tree-trunk sized metal arms and bit down again into the barbarian’s shoulder. Three minions near the chamber entrance advanced in formation on Cuana and struck with all their hate. The Cimmerian managed to parry several of the blows and swung his greatsword in response, splitting a cultists’ head like a ripe melon. He slashed again into the next closest minion but the cultists armor absorbed most of the blow. The cultist priestess chuckled at Dhak and exerted her will, again draining wisdom from the Stygian. Barely standing, Dhak kept Lady Julia engaged in the war of souls long enough for a mercenary to flank the priestess and send his greatsword through her gut. The sorceress sputtered her surprise in her last moment of life as she stared in disbelief at the blade which jutted from her belly, coated crimson by her blood. Xacksmith followed through with his feint and finessed past a minion’s armor. The Hyrkanian’s blade found purchase in the soft flesh of his foes neck. Enaro continued his brutal exchange with cultists that felled sellsword while Dhak attempted to feint an opponent. It was all Tullweim could do to keep the vice-like arm of the avatar from crushing him. But the Aesir managed to free an arm and sent the staff of Avanrakash straight down the maw of the four-horned horror.
A final throe of agony shook the avatar of Al’Kiir. With a scream of rage it dropped Countess Synelle and Tullweim. The scream pierced everyone in the chambers thoughts and drove all else from their minds. Dark ichor flowed from the gaping wound in the avatar’s neck where the point of the staff stuck out. The avatar clawed the air once more in agony when it finally fell. The body of Al’Kiir slowly hardened out from the wound, until it was frozen in place, statue-like once again. A mental scream from the avatar went on and on, vibrating in the deepest recesses of everyone’s mind. Suddenly they realized the ground was shaking from the fury of that scream. The fiery pit glowed white-hot. Huge stones began to fall from the cavern roof above. The earth lurched under foot.
Cuana reached out for Torali as Tullweim took up the Countess, protected her from falling debris and raced out of the crumbling chamber. Dhak called for aid as the sorcerer could barely stand and Xacksmith rushed him out with Enaro on their heels. The earth opened up and swallowed those who were transfixed by Al’Kiir’s mental scream including one of the two surviving Crimson Wolves. The passageway outside the chamber crumbled as well and all were struck by rubble. As they reached the surface the ancient columns and walls toppled about and crushed the remaining Nemedian Adventurer. A huge explosion hurtled man-sized chunks of granite into the sky. Tor Al’Kiir crumbled beneath their feet as they reached the edge and attempted to climb down. When they reached the bottom of the slope, the entire hilltop exploded. The shockwave knocked all to the ground, and a huge flame leapt 500 feet into the night sky. Several rocks hit those still conscious on the head, and all were taken by the dark.
After some time, the 5 mercenaries woke, still exhausted from the night’s trials. A red dawn crept out of the eastern sky. No one had yet dared venture abroad from the city and the sellswords were alone except for the 2 women at their side. They glanced up at the smoldering remains of Tor Al’Kiir. The top third of the hill had been vaporized. Nothing was left of its ruins but the huge boulders which dotted the field where the heroes of Ophir laid. Dhak tended to the Hyrkanian and stole Xacksmith from death’s grasp. Cuana and Tullweim first made sure Synelle and Torali were ok then the Cimmerian bandaged the Aesir’s wounds. After fifteen minutes the party took a deep breath and made their way to Ianthe’s gate.
The Heroes of Ophir
Count Clavanedes had the leaders of the King’s army imprisoned including Iskandrian, the White Eagle of Ophir. Countess Synelle expressed her concern that Valentius had not been present at the battle and feared he had indeed been taken by Iskandrian. Cuana remembered the man he’d rescued from the King’s dungeon and presented the wretch to Synelle. She was stunned that this was indeed the noble next in line as the ruler of Ianthe and the throne of Ophir. Dhak inspected the man and noted there was no mark on Valentius to account for his condition. The Stygian looked beneath the Count’s collar and found some kind of necklace which had had mystically robbed the Count of his senses. When the Stygian removed it the Count’s eyes immediately focused on his surroundings and he demanded to know what was going on. Cuana related his tale of rescuing Valentius from the dungeons and the events of the past night. With a look of gratitude on his face the Count thanked Cuana for his rescue.
Later that same day Valentius was presented to the people of Ianthe as the successor to the crown. A great ceremony was held to much applause as Countess Synelle was offered the queenship and honors were bestowed upon the mercenaries who had risked their lives for the country. Cuana, Dhak, Enaro, Tullweim, and Xacksmith were all made knights of the realm. The Cimmerian was given an exquisite Akbitanan greatsword by the king. Tullweim was presented with a fierce great helm decorated in the visage of a wolf by Queen Synelle. All five mercenaries were given 1,000 silver coins and a gem-encrusted Akbitanan broadsword or arming sword and the finest wool cloaks dyed with the deepest crimson. The Ophireans, both noble and common, cheered, gifted, and feted the sellswords as heroes for weeks. The feasts were elaborate affairs, the wine and ale were endless, and the women exceptionally appreciative of the heroes’ accomplishments. Little was said of the plot to summon Al’Kiir as nobody who knew of the events wanted the dark past to color the countries new era.
HP Total for all PCs at the end of this adventure:
| Cuana 14 | Dhak 1 | Tullweim 0 | Xacksmith -5 |