Campaign of the Month: March 2008
The Nemedian Chronicles
Cuana Chapter 9 Entry 5
Effectively trapped in Lord Nadanidus’s basement larder, we continued to fight, the desperation of our plight lending strength to each blow we struck. We could hear reinforcements coming to join the guards and knew we’d have to change tactics or perish to their superior numbers. The Stygian worked his necromancy, calling another of the slain guards back from death to attack his former comrades, causing many of them to flee in panic. I too felt the cold breath of the grave whisper down the back of my neck, and was forced further back into the chamber in order to put as much distance between myself and the vengeful corpse as possible. The Nordheimer was able to keep his fear in check, maintaining his stance in the doorway should any of the guards hew through the corpse and renew their assault on the entrance to the room.
Taking advantage of the distraction provided by the undead mercenary, we regrouped at the doorway in order to allow both Xacksmith and myself to get a clear swing on any trying to enter. Tullweim still stood tall in the doorway, but had stepped back a couple of paces into the room. The tide of the battle began to turn, as one by one the guards stepped into the doorway and were hit by the three of us. The guards began to change their tactic as well, retreating from our blades once they had been hit, sending fresh mercenaries to the fore to meet us. These too would retreat, some sorely wounded for stepping into range of our blades. Commands could be heard issuing from further up one of the corridors, presumably by Nadanidus himself, as he named Taspius as one that needed to break our defenses and slay us. Again Dhak used his powers to command guards back from death, this time two of them. They fell to attacking their fellows, renewing the panic that had routed the mercenaries before. The short corridor outside our door was littered with mangled bodies, the metallic smell of blood pervasive in the air. Bits of flesh, guts, and bone were everywhere, and the blood of the fallen pooled darkly on the stone floor in a scene that more closely resembled an abattoir than a simple hallway.
Many of the guards had fled at the sight of their dead comrade rising from the heap of bodies to attack them, and another few minutes of hard fighting broke the remaining mercenaries into a partial retreat. We waded out of the larder and through the bodies, into the intersection of the corridors. Disabling the lock on a door a few feet away, the Hyrkanian discovered a wine cellar. No sooner had I taken up position in the intersection than the door we had entered the cellars through swung open and the guards who had fled began storming back into the fight. Dhak was caught out in the intersection as well, and Tullweim had entered the wine cellar to see what Xacksmith was suddenly hollering so excitedly about. I was able to take down the guards who posed an immediate threat when Tullweim joined me and placed a curious jug into my hand, telling me to drink the contents and be rejuvenated. I quickly drank the golden liquid and immediately felt as though a cleansing fire coursed through my veins. Fatigue left me, strength began to swell in my muscles once again, and less blood leaked from my most recent wounds. If only there had been more of it to be had, I believe that I might have seen all of my wounds fade, leaving me perfectly healthy. It’s benefit was tremendous though, lending me enough strength to continue slaying our enemies.
The corridor was finally clear, so we moved further down to where a door stood closed at the end of the hall. A quick try at the handle revealed it to be locked, so the Nordheimer threw his weight against it in an attempt to force it open. The door held, causing Tullweim to stumble back several steps, so I stepped up and gave it a try. I hit the door so hard that it nearly splintered on its hinges, but my smug satisfaction was immediately snuffed out by the sight of at least a dozen more mercenaries that stood beyond. Calling taunts at me for my retreat, they stepped through the doorway to engage us in a last, desperate attempt to foil our plans of obtaining the proof we needed to take back to Publius and blow this conspiracy wide open.
Tullweim moved up into the doorway and managed to slay one of the mercenaries quickly, and again Dhak’s dark whispers beckoned the body back from death. The scene was much as it had been since the fighting first began – swords slashed, mercenaries died, retreated, or fled before our blades and their undead comrade. We soon had the way clear to continue our search for Nadanidus, who had fled somewhere in this direction. I was paying attention to the way ahead and back behind, looking and listening for any sound that might betray the presence of more attackers, when one of my fellows – I believe it was Xacksmith – noticed a secret panel in the hallway we had entered. He quickly located the catch and the panel slide aside, revealing Nadanidus’ treasury. Closing the panel behind us, we ducked into the small chamber to avoid detection by any remaining mercenaries and to take stock of the treasure that glittered before our eyes. It consisted mostly of silver coins, but a number of gems glittered among the stash. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of loading up pouches and backpack with the wealth of an antagonist, the satisfaction of hitting a wealthy bastard in his purse mingled with the thrill of pure, honest greed. We knew this wasn’t the time to burden ourselves with any extra weight, but would come back to raid the hoard when our business with Nadanidus was finished.
A narrow, uneven passage led out of the treasure chamber and ended in a closed door. A voice could be heard on the other side, chanting in a language that Dhak identified as Stygian. This was unexpected – Stygian? What in the black hells of Nergal would a Stygian be doing here beneath the house of Nadanidus, a place where only moments before we saw and fought priests of Mitra? I remained back near the door through which we had entered the treasure chamber to provide cover in case we were attacked from behind, so I wasn’t up front to see what the others did. I heard the gasps of my companions, and the sound of fleet footsteps as the Hyrkanian came rushing back to the rear of the treasure room. I drew my sword and ran to the doorway as both Dhak and Tullweim were backing away , and halted to see a giant serpent directly before me. I didn’t have any time to respond before the giant head lashed downward and buried it’s fangs deep into my flesh. Before I could pull free of that awful creature’s maw, it began lashing itself around my legs and chest, crushing me in it’s coils. Darkness crept into my field of vision from all sides as the breath was slowly forced from my lungs, ribs straining and starting to crack, the reptilian eyes which stared into mine seeming to recede into the distance as all light faded.
The next thing I saw was the face of the Nordheimer, distorted through a red haze of pain. He was bent over me, putting away the hooked needle from his healer’s kit and dribbling a small amount of wine over my lips. After managing to swallow a little of the stuff I sat up and was almost knocked flat again as a nauseating wave of pain washed over me and threatened to knock me senseless once again. I slowly eased myself back onto my feet and saw that the others, though a little worse for wear, were all okay. I saw no sign of the snake, and when I asked what had happened to it, the Stygian presented his large red gem with that rare, cryptic smile upon his face. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was that I looked upon, and when the knowledge of what I saw dawned on me I was unable to suppress the awe that I felt. Trapped inside the gem was the snake – now quite tiny and harmless where it remained imprisoned. The others quickly told me of what had transpired after the creature had crushed me sensless, of the defeat of Nadanidus, of Dhak shrinking the snake and how it had been sucked into the gem. It was a chilling tale to hear, especially since if they had not prevailed, we would have ended up in that creature’s gullet.
We gathered ourselves and stashed away as large a portion of Nadanidus’ treasure as we thought we could safely carry, so that we could come back for it before we left the city. We arrived at the Chancellory and were quickly ushered to Publius’ chambers, where we told all that had transpired, named names, and gave him his physical proof – a handful of scales from the giant snake, and even Dhak’s precious gem containing the serpent, which Publius said he’d need to keep as proof for the King to see for himself. As promised, Publius paid us the reward in silver, of which I asked him to keep my portion and distribute it among the dependants of those I had killed among the angry mob earlier. With that, we were told that we were no longer welcome in Tarantia, and an armed escort of Dragon Guards appeared to escort us out of the city. We tried to appeal to the chancellor to let us leave on our own since we still had to pick up the treasure we had stashed at Nadanidus’s mansion, but it was no use. We were marched straight out of the city in a very unceremonious manner, and the guards at the gate were told that we were not welcome in the city. With that, we were again on our own. We decided to put as many miles as possible between ourselves and the city, so we traveled through the rest of the day and into the evening before making camp for the night. I had returned to the camp with some small game to roast for dinner when I saw a strange man speaking with Dhak and Tullweim, his features hidden within the hood of his robe. At his feet was a large sack containing much of the silver we had prized away in Nadanidus’ house. He was introduced to me as Gaulan, the Asuran priest that had come to speak with us at the inn the day before. He had come to thank us for all we had done in clearing the Asurans and exposing the cult of Set as the perpetrators in Tarantia’s unrest. Having seen us both enter and exit Nadanidus’ mansion from the sewers, he had gone in for a look around, had put together what had happened from the clues we had left, and found the stash of coins we had left behind. Knowing that we had been escorted from the city, he was kind enough to show his thanks by following us to our camp site and delivering our treasure to us personally. I give the man credit, because he is the first priest who has ever handed me money instead of trying to get me to donate what little I had to their cause.