Tuesday, January 13, 2015

[Karazhan's Story] 2.18:

     I sighed, glancing down. The ground seemed quite far away from my current position, high on a parapet. I'd crept up here to avoid detection while sneaking further into Jakub's fortress. The place was crawling with undead and cultists, making it difficult to avoid detection, but if I wanted a chance at slaying Jakub and this greater demon, I needed the element of surprise on my side. So I'd been honing my skills as an acrobat to inch my way along the outside battlements of the curtain wall and hoping no one looked up and noticed my rear hanging off the stone wall. The stone smelled cold and musty, testament to it's age and if the place wasn't crawling with the enemy, I would have been quite excited to have this opportunity to explore such an important landmark in Freemarch's history. As it was, I had to stop a few times and admire the fantastic view of the entire march I had from my position.
     I stumbled over some loose rubble and sent a few small rocks sliding down the side of the battlements. I froze, every muscle tense as I waited to see if anyone was alerted to my blunder, but after a few seconds I took a deep breath and continued until I reached a watch tower. I stuck my staff inside the open doorway first, waggling it around for effect and when nothing untoward happened, I cautiously stepped around the corner into the darkened interior. This one was almost identical to the other tower and I quickly descended the steps to the ground level. Here, I found another altar. Briefly glancing across at it, I noticed several old scrolls stacked carelessly in the corner and curiously unfurled one. They were ancient and to my dismay, one crumbled in my hands. Delicately, I tucked the others into my satchel. At least I could preserve these scrolls for the scholars to research at Meridian. I imagine they would love to read these. So much of the written history of the march was lost because of Jakub's tyranny. Then I took great pleasure in destroying the profane altar, scattering all the filthy spell components from it's top, stomping on and scuffing up the runes and magic circles so they were illegible, and using a small fire spell, had the wooden surface of the altar ablaze in seconds. Because the tower itself was stone, I wasn't worried about the small fire. Leaving it to burn out behind me, I crept toward the exit of the tower. Peering outside, I gasped. Directly to my left sat a giant mutated mastiff. The hound was huge. It easily came to chest height. Saliva dripped in large quantities from its jowls and it's eyes glowed an unearthly violet. The color of death magic. I spun back inside the tower, back to the stone wall and took in a deep breath. And nearly choked on it when I heard loud snuffling sounds right next to me. Slowly, I turned my head and saw the snout of the demonic mastiff poking inside the entrance.
     I quickly jerked away from the hound, wanting distance between me and it, although I'm sure with it's large paws it could bound the distance between us easily. It came fully into the tower room, nails tapping loudly against the stone floor.
     "Nice doggy." I glanced around the room a bit frantically as the dog turned and growled at me. The hound crouched and it's muscles tensed and in seconds I had a fire spell called to mind and cast. The second the fireball was flung at the hound, I turned and darted up several steps of the stairs of that led up to the battlements. From there, I focused back on the hound and smirked when I saw that my spell had blasted the creature in the face. It's snout was charred and one eye looked a ruined mess. Despite this, the hound did not seem bothered and its lips pulled back to bare a row of sharp teeth and grey gums. I glared at it. "Sit, stay!" My half-hearted commands did nothing, as I expected, but it made me feel slightly more in control to say them. The dog bounded up the stairs and I leaped off them, twisting midair to fling another spell at the dog, this one an ice spell to lock it in place. The spell caught the mastiff midair and its feet froze. It hung comically, half up the stairs, before it fell, smashing into the stone steps with a snarled whimper. If it wasn't a soulless demon dog out to kill me, I'd have felt horrible for causing it pain. As it was, I winced. I could feel the electricity gathering around me from my spells. For every spell I cast, I became more electrified, and I used that to give my next spell more strength, slamming a shock of thunder into the hound. The spell battered the hound, sending it flying backwards to slam into the wall with so much force that the a few rocks rained down. I could tell from the violent sound that the mastiff was dead, but I waited several long seconds before moving anyway. Always ensure your enemy is dead. Poking the grey-skinned body with my staff evoked no movement, so I finally relaxed my shoulders and forced my breathing back to normal.

     Peering outside again, I noticed that the cultists all seemed to be focused in one corner of the courtyard. I considered the situation a moment, and then spotted an old cart nearby that was piled high with filthy rags and other debris. I quickly darted over and crept behind the cart, waiting several seconds to see if I'd been noticed. When a herd of cultists did not coming running toward me demanding my head on a pike, I reached out and snagged a pile of filthy clothing off the cart. It was the same sort of material that the cultists had, so I tugged the ragged robes over my own, feeling disgusting. "Definitely having a long bath after this." I muttered in disgust as I shook the grimy robe out around my ankles. It was a little tight around the shoulders on my large frame but it wasn't like there were Bahmi sized clothing just lying around in a human keep. Still, would it kill them to do the washing once in a while? With my disguise firmly in place and my wand carefully strapped to my back, I popped up from behind the wagon and casually started walking toward the main keep, trying to look like I fit in. I knew the disguise wouldn't last under close scrutiny and only hoped that everyone was too busy with their own thing to notice one more cultist about. Nothing to see here, move along. I passed another demonic hound and it swiveled its head to follow my movement across the yard. I held my breath, but the creature just watched with unholy eldritch eyes. I made it to the stone steps that led to the keep and stopped, turning to survey the courtyard. A few cultists glanced my way curiously but I gave them what I hoped was a 'mind your own business' glare. There were more hounds sitting at the top of the steps and if I wanted into the keep I'd need to pass them. Great. I just knew that I'd find Jakub and his pet demon inside. Obviously if your an evil megalomaniac you'd want the best seat in the house.
     Well here goes nothing. I walked up the stone steps and the hounds at the top perked up, eyes following my every movement. When I reached the top, both hounds were on their feet, staring. I waved my hands in a shooing motion. "Go away!" I whispered forcibly. If they attacked me, up here at the top of the steps, it'd be a very painful last few minutes of my life when everyone in the courtyard came rushing over. "Bad dogs!" I wagged my finger at the hounds and their ears swiveled forward then back. Maybe they still had dog mannerisms. Without taking my eyes off the eldritch hounds, I reached into my second pack and blindly rummaged around until my fingers closed over the remains of my fish meal. I pulled it out slowly and the hounds immediately stood up straighter, ears on high alert.
     "Easy, there ya go, good puppies." I crooned. I felt silly talking to these demon mastiffs as if they were fluffy little puppies, but it settled my nerves some. Slowly, I reached down and set the cooked fish on the stone steps. Thankfully, the hounds didn't try to tear my face off. Instead, they cocked their heads in tandem and stared at the food. I shuffled to the side, but refused to back down the steps. I knew enough not to show weakness in front of predators. The hounds came forward and I squeezed around them, breathing out a huge sigh of relief when they sniffed the food and began fighting over who got to eat it. With one last glance around to make sure no one noticed my feeding the guard dogs, I slipped inside the keep.

     Inside, it was almost pitch black and I felt the click inside when my Ascended gifts kicked in, allowing me perfect night vision. Another altar took up most of the first floor. This one was far more elaborate and sinister looking. It also had a protection spell cast one it. Feeling along the edges of the spell, I recognized it as one that would flay the skin off anyone who tried to meddle in the ritual. A beautiful full length sword lay along the altar lengthwise, wrapped in red and gold material which I'd guess would be royal silk. The sword gleamed with an inner light, almost like it was lit from within. Definitely not Jakub's sword. Without touching anything, I leaned over and read the glyphs inscribed into the tang of the blade. "March Edge" was written in an old script. I gasped. The sword of the kings of Freemarch! How in the realms did that tyrant get ahold of this artifact? How dare he defile something so sacred. March Edge was a powerful talisman and an important part of Freemarch's heritage. The protection spell around the altar was strong, but not strong enough to keep out an Ascended. Using all of my new magical strength, I was able to twist the spell until it unraveled. I saw the rings of the spell as they fell away and smirked. It was quite satisfying, finally having the ability to actually make a difference. My magical senses detected other, malignant magic hovering around the altar now that the protection barrier was down, but this magic wasn't inherently harmful, despite its evil. And sadly, its purpose had already been fulfilled. Some kind of massive summoning. The strong and sudden smell of brimstone confirmed that Jakub had indeed already summoned up Legul. And a whole host of demons as well. I had no idea he had that kind of power. Unless he used the lives of his followers as fuel for the ritual. 

No comments:

Post a Comment