Empires Shadows

The End of the Line, Part I

18th day of Harvest 513 A.A

The adventurers pushed through the door to find themselves in a room that bore resemblance to a cathedral, but one in a nightmarish state. Four stone pillars were spaced evenly around the room, about as tall as a man and on top of them sat black metal grating, each of which held a crystal as long as Alzirs forearm which emanated a soft blue light by which they could see. The dividing walls were crumbling, leaving great piles of rumble strewn across the dusty, smashed flagstones. Around the edges giant cobwebs, spun by many generations of spiders hung loose, billowing in the slight draught emitted by the adventurers. Directly in front of them the alter had been defiled, daubed in excrement and a cackling figure plunged a blade down into the heart of a still, elfin figure lying across it. Blood ran down grooves in the table and through runnels that looked to be newly carved for the purpose, towards a hole in the floor, surrounded by a grate, through which the blood flowed. Chains dangled from high above, attached to the ceiling and ran down, through the hole and to the bottom of the pit. There was so much blood that it was obvious this was not their first victim, nor even close to it. Hadar, Foostus and Erak felt a new chill run up their spine as they realised for what purpose they had been captured.
In front of the pit stood two Northman, one dressed in a black dyed leather coat and the other wearing a black fur cloak over dark coloured hides. They regarded the adventures levelly, not saying a word. Alzir heard the scuff of a foot on stone to the north, behind the dividing wall. He nudged Garthius and gestured with a thrust of his chin. Garthius cocked his head and listened. The sound came again and he nodded to Alzir. Across from them the man doing the sacrificing cackled loudly, bringing everyone’s attention back to him.
“Who dares to challenge the might of Orcus?” he bellows followed by another uncontrollable chuckle.
“Are you touched in the head, Cackling Man?” Asks Hadar.
“Yeeeesssss,” hisses the Follower of Orcus.
“Can you not be reasoned with?” queries Alzir. “If you turn away from this life of wickedness, Avandra may be kind and allow me to spare you.”
The follower of Orcus sighs, seemingly genuinely sorrowful. “Alas, no. I cannot. I am not permitted that luxury.” Then he smiles a wicked, mad smile, “Northmen! Seize them! They will make prime sacrifices for Orcus.” He laughs again, raises his hand and mutters a brief, undulating word of magic and a lance of dark, corrupted energy shoots forth at the party.
Alzir and Garthius duck and roll to their left, behind one of the north dividing walls. Foostus, Kildrak and Erak charge forward to engage to Northmen, who draw their simple, unadorned, businesslike axes from across their should and at their belt to meet the charge. Hadar hangs back, the better to support the group with his borrowed magic and luckily the energy misses him.
Kildrak and Erak charge the Northman to the left of the pit, Kildrak getting a good hit in on the flatfooted Northman while Erak stumbles and misses with his first swing. Kildrak hears a throaty hiss from behind him and turns in time to block an attack from a vampire spawn, a pale, emaciated humanoid creature with a huge, bald head and oversized teeth. Erak steps forward quickly to take over fighting the Northman, blocking his attack at Kildraks, exposed back.
Garthius moves ahead of Alzir, moving silently while Alzir keeps his eyes peeled and his ears pricked for signs of danger. Garthius steps beneath a archway to be confronted by two more vampire spawns. He shouts a warning to Alzir, drops his hand to his belt pouch and pulls out one of the grenadeos, an alchemists fire, that he looted from a body earlier in the dungeon. He throws it underarm and the glass bounces off the vampire but doesn’t break, hitting the floor with a harsh clink but no explosion of fire. The vampire turns to glare at Garthius who gulps and turns quickly to block an attack from the one on his left. His sword sails two inches short and the vampire’s claws rake at his cheek. Where they pass the skin blackens and mulches, smoking it gives off a putrid stench of rotting corpses. Alzir charges through the door, Morningstar raised. He swings but misses, recovering in time to defend a counter attack.
Meanwhile Foostus is in intense combat with the other Northman, the light from the crystal bouncing off his armour in a blue corona. He slams his warhammer into the Northman, knocking him back but the Northman surges forward again and deals Foostus yet another wound, this time slashing through one of the buckles on his thigh plate, and leaving a long cut in his flesh. Foostus staggers back, trips and falls. Hadar holds the Northman back with a torrent of energy long enough for Foostus to right himself and retreat. But Foostus is done. He has been slashed, beaten, burned with acid and almost drowned, twice. He calls out, “I’m sorry but I cant keep on any longer and stagger back, out of the dungeon.
The Northman fighting Erak sees him go and calls out, “Turn back Southerner!”
The other smiles and crys, ““Nothing that a bunch of pisswash wetbacks can do against couple of Named Men like Warryn Halfblood” he gestures to Halfblood, busy fighting with Erak, “and Darmum Hardbread,” gesturing back at himself. Alzir laughs and shouts from behind the dividing wall, “STALEBREAD!”
Erak sees an opening against the vampire spawn that Kildrak is battling, shifts and swings his sword in a hard, downward arc, cutting through the vampire like butter, from the top of its head right down through its groin. The vampire crumples, the body turning to burning ash as it falls, leaving Kildrak staring up at Erak. Kildrak grins, “THAT was fucking COOL!” at Erak.
Alzir, from just behind one of the walls, hears this and bellows, “What’s happening?” but is unanswered. A shadow flickers over the rubble. It looks like a goblin, wearing shadow like a cloak, his eyes sunken into his pale face and hooded by his brows so that they lie in a pool of darkness. The Dark Creeper slides round the wall until he is behind Alzir, flanking him while his attention is engaged with the vampire and stabs his dagger at him but it skitters off of the back of his chainmail. Kildraks chainmail protects him from another attack from the vampire but there the claws slash the rings blacken and rust, giving off the smell of corrupted metal.
The Orcus Underpriest continues throwing bolts of dark, magic at Hadar but he dodges easily and begins to call up the power of the Nine Hells. He murmurs the words of a spell and Darmum Hardbread is lifted into the air as though an invisible hand had grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. It swings him around and releases him, flinging him down the hole in the chamber. Hadar bellows a battle cry which is cut off abruptly when one of the chains snaps taught with a faint jingle. Even over the battle the sound of Hardbreads panting, angered breath can be heard as the chain rattles.
Halfblood shifts, around Erak and delivers a light touch to the mercenary with his great axe which nevertheless finds a weak point in the mans armour, drawing out a short but deep cut at his side, along his ribs. Kildrak puts his shoulder to Halfblood and tries to push his backwards, into the hole but the Northman has too good a stance to be pushed so easily. Erak makes the most of his distraction and swings his sword in a mighty stroke that leaves a long gash along the Northmans upper arm, through his leather coat. Halfblood turns to look at Erak and his eyes go wide, so wide that that a band of white can be seen all the way around his iris’ and he smiles so wide that the blood drains from his lips, leaving them white around his yellowing teeth.
Garthius continues to battle the vampire, who is too quick for him and Garthius recovering his swing quickly enough to parry the vampire’s claws. The Dark Creeper stabs Alzir again with his dagger, this time slicing through the chainmail, drawing blood. The Creeper shifts away from Alzir who turns, swinging his Morningstar at the Creeper, smashing it into his left arm which dangles uselessly.
The Orcus Underpriest begins to move forward, casting a spell as he goes. He flings a blast of necrotic energy at Kildrak, hitting his squarely on the shoulder. The dwarf cries out as his shoulder turns black, the flesh rotting. Another vampire charges Kildrak and strikes at his unprotected back, raking its claws with strength that is surprising from its emaciated frame, leaving the same, corrupted marks in his armour. The chain closest to Erak shudders and the panting becomes louder as Hardbread makes his way up towards the opening.
Hadar eyes the chain and lets fly with an eldritch blast, aiming at the jerking chain ten feet above where it descends into the pit. The blast melts through the links and the chain drops, too quick to follow out of sight. This time Hardbread does scream as he plummets downwards, though its a scream of rage rather than fear, the sound dopplering out. The thud of him hitting the ground goes unheard in the battle. He turns to Halfblood and lets forth a curse in Draconic at the Northman.
The vampire attacking Alzir makes another swing at his back but Alzir senses it coming and leans forward, out of the way. Halfblood swings his axe at Kildrak and it crashes past the dwarfs defences, knocking the dwarf back, half a step and sending the wind sailing out of him. Kildrak focuses himself after that heavy hit, using ancient dwarven techniques to block the pain. He then tries again to push Halfblood backwards into the pit but the larger humanoid does not move. Kildrak breaks off and retreats to a safe distance. Erak brings his sword around and cleaves through Halfbloods arm which drops to the floor. The sword continues through into the Northmans ribs. Erak twists the blade and pulls it free, letting Halfblood follow his arm to the floor, blood pooling around him.
Garthius shifts back and retreats from the vampire to attack the Creeper but his sword pieces the creature shadowy cloak but misses the creature. He draws back his sword as Alzir murmurs a prayer to Avandra and some of Eraks wounds knit back together. Alzir swings his Morningstar at the Dark Creeper which ducks under the Morningstar and shifts away from Alzir, throwing his dagger at Alzir but missing. The vampire that Garthius retreated from advances and strikes at him again, his claws scoring their foul smelling marks into the shoulder of his leather cuirass.
The Underpriest launches another globule of energy, this time at Erak. The energy rots the flash that it touches and Erak bares his teeth in pain. The Underpriest cackles and says, “Voran will pay us a handsome bonus for delivering you to them.” Alzir clears his nose in disgust. The vampire harassing Kildrak swings his claws and scores another set of marks into the dwarf, this time into his arm.
Hadar places a curse on the Underpriest, speaking in Draconic and summons the Flames of Phelagoes on the Underpriest. Black flames sprout up around the Underpriest, setting his robes, hair and skin alight. Hadar snarls at him as his curse kicks in, intensifying the heat.
One of the vampire spawn moves forward to attack Alzir, who is standing back to back with Garthius. The vampire swipes at Alzir dealing its necrotic damage. Kildrak turns on the vampire next to him, his lips peeling back from his teeth which lengthen. The vampires eyes grow wide as it recognises Kildrak as vampirekin and it whispers, “Predator,” drawing the word out into a snarl. Kildrak grabs at the vampires shoulders, pulling it down with all his strength and sinks his teeth into the vampires throat. It twitches twice as long, slurping noises emanate from Kildrak then goes still. Kildrak drops the corpse, blood dripping from his chin as the unlight goes out of its eyes.
Garthius and Alzir see an opening against their respective vampire opponents and strike. Garthius sinks his blade into the vampire’s chest while Alzir swings his Morningstar, splattering his enemies head across the flagstones floor. Garthius twists the blade, lifts his foot and pushes the corpse off of his sword with the sole of his boot. He steps quickly over it and around the corner it was guarding. When hes out of sight of the enemies and the rest of the party he presses his back to the wall and quietly sidesteps along it, up to the opening where the wall has crumbled, hoping to flank the Dark Creeper.
The Dark Creeper advances on Kildrak and stabs Kildrak with his dagger, puncturing his armour and flesh. Erak steps over the Northmans corpse and swings his sword, leaving a long cut across the Underpriests chest. The Underpriest retaliates with a swing of his mace, and misses, the flames surrounding him flickering out, leaving his robes singed and his hair burned off. Hadar bellows at Erak to brace himself, places his hands together and launches a fiery bolt at the Underpriest. It crashes down on him, killing him. Some of the fire rolls off of the Underpreist and Erak is caught up in the splash damage, fire licking at his clothes and armour and singing his eyebrows off.
Hadar curses the Dark Creeper and launches an Eldritch blast of power against it. The Creeper cant dodge and is struck by the dark energy. Hadars curse kicks in, increasing the creepers pain. Kildrak swings his battle axe at the Creeper but misses as the shadows shift around him to block the attack. The Underpriests body suddenly rears up and dark energy and shadow rips out of it, straight at Hadar. The necrotic energy sears Hadar, rotting his skin on touch.
Erak steps around the Dark Creeper to flank him with Kildrak. Erak taps the Creeper on the shoulder. The creeper turns round just in time to lock eyes with Erak as he swings his sword around in a tight arc, slicing his head off. All of the shadow that was gathered around the Creeper rushes out of it as the body teeters and drops to the floor. The head bounces and rolls to rest at the foot of the pile of rubble from the north dividing wall.
Searching the bodies they find nothing of value. They take a short rest and Alzir has a look around the area but finds nothing of interest so the Hadar, Erak and Alzir each take a hold of one of the remaining chains and jump off the edge, sliding downwards, Garthius and Kildrak follow a heartbeat later.

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