Monday, February 15, 2010

Stop, Drop and Roll

Arbiddance watched in total disbelief as Xis pulled a tapestry off the wall and wrapped in it as he dropped to the floor and rolled.

He had no idea what the source of flame was, but it was apparently from the hollow screams and thrashing that the lich was terrified, and not just of the fire.  Something or someone terrible was loose in these halls.

Arbiddance crouched behind the platform and did what any good magician would do upon awakening from a long, mind-numbing sleep: he checked to see what spells he remembered.

Another set of feet quickly entered the room from an unknown source and vectored toward the door.  Arbiddance ventured a peak around the side of the platform, and his blood ran cold as he thought he saw Ariya Thule exit the room swords drawn.

I'm seeing things, he thought to himself and switched to an even more chilling concept: I don't remember any spells.

He searched the pockets of his robes for anything useful and found nothing at all.

Xis rose from the tangle of smoldering tapestry... stripped of his decayed robes to reveal his emaciated form.  The lich's eyes scanned himself for obvious damage... finding plenty... and then peered up to the empty platform.  Arbiddance ducked back out of sight.  A hiss of frustration escaped through the room and leathery footsteps made for the door.

Arbiddance released his breath and shifted slightly to rise, as a hideous hand snapped around the platform, grabbed his ankle.  The magician howled as its icy grip tightened and a chill extended up his leg.

Arbiddance wildly kicked at the lich's grip as the bone-chilling cold ripped through his leg and up into his torso.  Despite his strongest blows, he couldn't shake Xis as the creature began to drag him from behind the platform and into the clear part of the room.

At last the magician pulled a desperate ploy.  He twisted to his right, forcing Xis' arm to roll in order to maintain the grip and expose his elbow... on to which Arbiddance brought his left heel down with all his remaining strength.  The lich, even dead, felt the blow; Xis released his grip and snarled.

Arbiddance rolled to once side, saw a ki-rin, and then attempted to stand.  He stopped and looked again at the doorway and gawked at the creature as it bull-rushed the lich...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Third

Arbiddance arched off the platform and rolled off to the floor.

Gods, I'm on fire, he thought.  I'm on fire!

The searing flames shot through his mind and throughout his body, and then ceased.  He caught his breath and opened his eyes to look around.

"I'm free," he muttered, and jumped as a flaming figure dodged into the chamber.


Daen, Kaenorr, Vaekainen, Kae'Aboth, Stygius. I beseech you.  I believe five are mightier than one.  I believe, now my mind is unshackled, that  you will free me rather than abandon me to my fate.  I implore those five who walked on the night of my birth.  I have served you well and will again.  Free me now, I beg of you, and give me the power to destroy my captor.  So let it be.

And after an hour of prayer, Qova found herself free.

Bare, but free.  Weaponless, but found her prayers had been answered with the ability to cast spells in the name of her Five.  She didn't move for a span of a few minutes, as if afraid she were dreaming all of this.  The energy field was gone... wisping away like smoke. Suddenly, she grasped it to be true, and stepped off the platform.

To the right, in the dim light, she spied a cabinet.  Padding to it, she pulled the door open and saw it stuffed with her possessions and those of her friends.  She pawed through the familiar items and found what she was looking for.  She slipped it over her head and around her neck, just as the door flew open.

Xis burst into the room, and if a lich could have a look of shock in its face, then Xis was stunned to see the platform empty.  He whirled to his left as Qova began to chant, and as he brought up an amulet for protection, he locked eyes with the raw, naked goddess Qova as her hands came down and pointed at him... and xis exploded in a column of white-hot flame.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Qova Awakens

Daen, hear me.
Kaenorr, hear me.
Vaekainen, hear me. 
Kae'Aboth, hear me.
Stygius hear me.

She had repeated these mantras so many times per day every day for... even she lost track. The ritual summoning of her gods drained her slowly of her spiritual connection to them... focused outwards to... what?... the cloaked figure she sometimes saw lurking in the darkness.

She sometimes glimpsed him from the sides of her eyes... flowing through the murk like a shadow... cloaked and crowned like a dead king returned.  No muscle of hers would move, not even her eyes... except for her tongue and throat which were forced to murmur the same mantras time and time again.

Now she felt her muscles begin to loosen.  Her eyes rolled slowly side to side.  She saw the strange apparatus she occupied and blinked when the flint was struck and the torches lit.

In the light, she saw the battered form of Ariya holding the torch and moving across the chamber.  Her breath stuck in her throat, and her mantra stumbled.

I'm delighted you're with us again, Qovakrisstia Darkhair.  The hissing voice rattled through the room.  Turning her head to the left, she saw the cloaked figure seated at a table casually observing her.


Free.  Or as free as I wish.  I've occupied your mind for too long not to know how you would react, so I merely anticipate your actions and stop them before they even start.

The figure stood and slithered forward to stand by her side. I've tapped you as much as I dare.  Your link to your gods is very strong, and a good source of divine energy readily suckled and stored.  I thank you.

"And now?" she swallowed and gasped.

You're far too dangerous to keep alive, and I'm wasting mental energy keeping you chained... energy best used elsewhere.  You're comrade, even know, is beginning to fight me for control of his mind.  Arbiddance.  He's very strong, you know.  Roughly in the same range as I... but not quite.

The figure stalked around her. He still has his uses.  But you... you stay alive so long as I still need the forces I've tapped from your spirit.  Once they are depleted, then I'm afraid you'll have to go.

He turned and walked toward a doorway. Tonight perhaps.  You would be wise to make your peace with your gods, as you'll be seeing them before tomorrow is over.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"She lives in the Shaemsaerr Wilds... a day or two ride from here.  Some say she moved there to get away from the minds of others... to find some peace.  The general gossip is that she's a witch and she can mold minds," Malek said.

The Prince drained his cup and put it down. "I've heard of this one," he belched. "Isn't she supposed to be rather dangerous as in 'not friendly to trespassers?'"

"As a rule, most hermit types aren't, but supposedly she can be reached if you go through the right channels," Malek replied. "If she's half as powerful as they say, she could turn the tide... perhaps even have an effect on the lich itself."

"And the price?"

"We'll have to find out up front,"  Yrmus smiled.
With the three agreed, Thing #1 and Thing #2 were left in control of the manor house in the mean time.  The Prince and his new allies mounted and headed southwest.

The journey took a little over a day and as darkness fell, they found themselves riding into the outer reaches of the Shaemsaerr Wilds.  The forest growth on the roadsides took on a decidedly sinister air with branches reaching out to snag the unwary.  Their mounts became skittish and the air was subtlely colder here.

"There's a tavern about an hour from here," Malek said. "It's called Bagher House and it's there we can make inquiries."

In time, they reached Bagher House... a dilapidated two story structure with smoke pouring from each chimney.  The riders stabled their mounts and eased through the front door.

Though bright and warm, there were few patrons present.  Two men sat huddled around a corner table; a hooded figure sat at a table near one fireplace, and the barkeep lurked in the shadows.  Malek approached the bar and the keep slid toward him.  Drinks were ordered, and the riders took a table in the middle of the room.

The Prince looked around and pulled his cloak closer. "Charming place."

"You have to undestand it's slightly off the beaten path," Malek replied. "The patrons are going to be almost all locals... any new faces are here for a reason."

"Now what?" Yrmus asked.

Malek shrugged. "Like I said, new faces have a reason to be here, and visiting the Witch is the main reason.  Let's see what happens."

Let's see what happens, the Prince thought, and shook his head in derision.


"Suffice to say we're on our own with this one," Malek muttered to the group around the table.

"Well, we could take some guards and throw them at the lich while we attack," Yrmus countered.

"You really have no idea what you're talking about," the Prince spit toward him. "This is a creature that mentally dominated myself, a priestess and a magician within seconds... before we could effectively act.  Besides, I think there's been enough innocent blood shed, and you're comment, even if in jest, is repulsive."

Malek pushed from the table and leaned back.  "Well, what's your plan then?"

"My plan," the Prince said "was to slip closely and slide one of these up its ass."  He fingered one of the two swords given to him. "I'd have done it too by now if Ariya hadn't dealt me a nearly mortal wound."

"Yes, how's that coming? "Yrmus smiled. "Hair growing?  Feeling a strong desire for raw meat, blood, that sort of thing?"

The Prince didn't spare him a look. "If I do, you'll be the first to know, I promise. Back on subject, a party this size will make too much noise... the possibility of a surprise attack is out the window."

"If your friends are under some sort of mental control, then we might have to face them as well as Xis," Malek mused. "What we need to do is break that hold over them.  Together, all of us might be able to take him.  Some casualities, perhaps.  But we might take him."  He studied the Prince. "Do you remember anything about your enslavement to him?"

The Prince sighed and leaned back. "Fragments.  That's all.  Impressions, more like it, like a dream you know you had but can't conjure back up.  It's really rather persuasive, I can tell you that."

"Alright,"Malek continued. "What if we could break that hold over Arbiddance and Qovakrisstia?"

"How?"  the Prince asked.

"I think I might know someone who could do it, but the price would be unusual..."

Friday, January 8, 2010


The Grinning Prince knew the names of the two who seemed to be in charge of their little expedition... Malek and Yrmus.  The two fighters he simply labeled Thing #1 and Thing #2 since they never spoke but merely lurked in the background... swords at the ready.

At this moment, he, Malek, Yrmus, and the Things along with the captain of the guard, made a wide circle around a hideous yet darkly humorous sight.  Three men, one ancient and two middle-aged, were stuck in the ground near the hill of the entrance... their top halves above ground, their bottom halves seemingly melded into the bedrock under the shallow topsoil.  All three faces wore an expression of shock mixed with deadly realization.

"I wonder if that actually hurt," he finally said.

Malek shot him a look which curtailed any further queries.  The Prince stifled a giggle and motioned for the captain to follow him as he ambled off.

Yrmus watched them leave and then mumbled to Malek, "I hope you have a plan B."

"Of course, I don't have a plan B," Malek hissed. "I never imagined a lich would be involved.  This was supposed to be a simple track down and elimination of a target, and now it's turned into a first rate goat fuck."

"And that's your employer," Yrmus pointed at the white haired old man.

"That's my employer.  I'm not sure if he let anyone else in on the plan.  However, if there's any chance of receiving my pay, then I'll have to go through with the assignment.  Last time I checked, you're pretty much obligated to follow along."

Yrmus sighed and turned to gaze at the back of the Prince some 100 feet away. "Well, he seems bent on going back and finding his friends.  I see no reason not to help them," he turned and smiled to Malek.  "After all, if they became the masters here, why can't we?"