Three Rings of Evil: A Tale of Mystara

The Escape

Escape.jpg




The king, still regal despite his undeath, stood in front of Ariston silently. His scale mail still shone, little crested waves etched on the scales. His tabard was ripped and brown stains darkened the light blue cloth. Dark scars crisscrossed the king’s cheek, having never healed but the blood had dried more than fifty years ago. As the Forestor took a step back, the king stepped forward; not speaking, unblinking, his heavy mace held at his side.

None of the party knew what to do. Ariston and Jael stood near the king. The others stood back and kept an eye on both the king and the queen.

“We mean you no harm, my lord. We just seek passage off of your island.” Ariston spoke to the king but there was no response. “Sir, I implore you in the name of Diulanna, provide us the assistance to leave you to your rest.” The king stared mutely.

Not knowing what to do, he decided to fell the king with his sword. He swung but the zombie lord was quicker than expected and blocked the Forestor’s blow with his large mace. The king slipped his mace down the blade and struck the Forestor with such force that Ariston staggered back, a little stunned. Jael stepped up to meet the king and the fight was on.

From the shadows to the south, came something shambling. In line, three long dead warriors appeared out of the darkness. Their clothing was rotted and barely there. The faded blue cloaks of Viledel’s royal guard had been ripped in the fight to save the king originally and time had not been kind on the remains. The guards themselves were no more than skeletons, their flesh having turned to dust or been eaten by rats many years ago.

Kyri and Syndylys had been standing apart from the rest of the group and were the first to notice the skeletal guardians.

“Chronos!” yelled Kyri. “We could use your help with these departed souls.”

The cleric slid Sarmboc gently to the floor and moved back as Jonathan, Melisana and Chae moved up to stop the queen. She moved forward, no light in her eyes but clearly intending to kill the adventurers.

Flavius, Jael and Ariston flanked the king but their blows were easily deflected by Viledel. He in turn bashed the Forestor, opening a large gash on his forehead. Blood ran into Ariston’s eyes and he attempted to move slightly away from the undying creature in front of him.

The skeletons were closing in on Syndylys and Kyri and they readied themselves for a fight. However, Chronos appeared between the Elf and Mage. His arms were raised and he looked fearlessly at the advancing undead.

“By the power of Vanya and all the Immortals, I banish thee to your eternal rest. Let you no longer walk amongst the living. Thus to the undead!”

The skeletons stopped in their tracks. The air in the chamber seemed less dank and the light of the torches appeared to shine a bit brighter. The skeletons turned and moved away into the shadows.

Meanwhile, the queen focused her attention on Jonathan, raking his arms with her jagged undead fingernails. Melisana bashed Liala with her club but the queen showed no emotion nor any sign of being deterred.

King Viledel swung his mace again, the wind of his blow whistling. It came to land on Ariston’s unprotected left flank and the ranger spit out all of the air in his lungs. He staggered back but ignored his bruised ribs. His own weapon reacted, slicing at the king. Sawdust like blood spilled from the gash Ariston had opened in the king’s neck. Flavius stabbed with his sword and his blade slipped under the scales and entered dry flesh. Jael missed with her club.

Chronos turned from the skeletons and shouted again, “King and Queen, once very alive and now not quite dead but animated by evil. Stay your hands and lay down your heads upon your cold slabs. Let your spirits depart to the next world!” There was no effect on the royal couple.

Thinking that the king was the more dangerous of the two, Chae left the queen to Jonathan and Melisana and maneuvered to get behind the king. Jonathan and Melisana’s landing blows appeared to do little to the queen. Instead she struck at Jonathan and knocked him aside, scrapping his face with her hands.

Syndylys and Kyri were still curious about the skeletal guards. They advanced into the darkness. As Syndylys moved away with the torch, it became darker near the crypts and Chae smiled as he disappeared in the shadows. “I will backstab this undead king,” he mused to himself.

The king had other plans in store, however. He pressed his attack upon the ranger. The gleaming and now bloody mace fell upon Ariston again. It was an upward blow though, that caught the young Forestor under the chin and sent his sprawling and unconscious. Jael barely noticed and struck the king again to no avail. Flavius stabbed again, using the short sword as he would his gladius. This time, it went right through Viledel’s body and the king turned to him. Flavius barely was able to pull the sword out.

A trickle of blood was running down Jonathan’s cheeks, red and broken lines down his handsome face. He smiled and wiped them with the back of his hand. He then swung again at the queen but his blows seemed to do nothing to dissuade her. She punched him in the chest and he felt breathless. He wheezed, “You are stronger in death than you likely were in life, my queen.”

Melisana struck again and the queen turned towards her, death in her eyes.

Chae’s chance to hide was ruined by the king’s finishing of Ariston. The king was glaring at the spot where the rogue was. He did not attack him though. Instead, the mace was meant for Flavius who just barely sidestepped it. “King, I grow tired of this fight,” said the soldier. “You should not have to die twice but you will.”

Jael clubbed at the King but the blow was shrugged off. Flavius stabbed again but this blow was caught by the corpse’s tattered cloak. Flavius twisted the sword and the blue fabric ripped in half, flying behind the king.

Chronos had stopped to check on Ariston. A hint of blood was on the unconscious adventurer’s lips. However, the priest found he was still alive; barely but alive. He began to administer to him as best as he could, tearing off parts of the ranger’s rag clothing to act as bandages.

Syndylys and Kyri turned to go fight the queen. The skeletons were clearly no longer an immediate threat. Syndylys marveled to himself over this display of clerical magic. He knew of no spell that was its equal. He would have to learn more about this power. Now was not the right time though. He slipped one of his daggers out of his makeshift belt. He wished it was the one that Kyri had in her belt.

The queen again went for Jonathan. This time she pushed him with both hands, knocking him off his feet. She then kicked him. He howled in pain.

Melisana turned to him and backed away from the queen. Suddenly, she felt as if the tide was turning. She could see that the king may have killed Ariston (she could not tell if Chronos was administering last rites or trying to heal him). She also saw Jonathan down and had no idea where a few of the party were. She was afraid for her life and a tear slipped down her cheek. The king turned to Chae and swung his mace. It just grazed the acrobatic rogue. Jael and Flavius were there in response and both struck the undying royal.

Syndylys and Kyri reached the queen but she was ready. In one swift movement, she grabbed the mage about his neck and squeezed with undead might. Luckily, Kyri’s blade struck and forced her to drop him. Syndylys’ dagger fell to the floor, quickly followed by him.

Flavius knew that they could not fight much longer. They were hungry, thirsty and tired. Most of all, they were mostly unskilled humans who would quickly tire in a fight. Meanwhile, their opponents were undying, tireless minions animated by evil. He had to do something.

Under his breath, he prayed, “Oh Diulanna, you have challenged us on this island. But my goddess is Vanya, the ever victorious. I will make her proud this day.”

Flavius stepped next to the king and swung his short sword with all his might. It sang through the air and cut deep into the dry flesh of Viledel’s neck, above the protection of the scale mail. It was the same wound that Ariston had opened earlier but this time, without dry muscle to oppose it, it connected with the neck bones, cracked them in splinters and came out the other fleshy side. A sound like the crackling of fire or the snapping of twigs, but much louder, came from the king. Blood long powdered in his veins puffed out and his head went in the opposite direction of his body. A chill wind sent shivers down Flavius’s sword arm and King Viledel, the once mighty Sea King, was finally truly dead.

The queen did not notice but kept fighting. She swung at the advancing Kyri but the Elf was too quick. She responded with a swing of her sword which if the queen had been alive, would probably have felled her. Instead, Liala kept fighting.

Chronos had finished giving Ariston what aid he could. The Forestor was awake but groggy and in no condition to fight. The priest had heard Jonathan grunt but saw that the man was still crawling. Chronos got to his feet and gripped his club.

“If you want someone to take care of not quite departed spirits, you need a priest,” he murmured to himself.

Flavius was glad that the king was down and for a second he rested. However, he knew he needed to fell the queen too. Melisana could be seen on the far side of the queen, panic stricken. It appeared that Jonathan and Syndylys were down and the priest was finishing up tending to Ariston. Jael looked at Flavius and they grimly nodded to each other than moved to attack the queen.

Liala struck at Kyri, scratching at her rags. The Elf sidestepped and thrust the long sword into the queen’s side. This too would have been a killing blow but the queen was already dead once. Vital organs were dust inside her body and their piercing did not have the same effect as it would have fifty years ago.

Chae was trying to figure out how to sneak up upon the queen but there were no close shadows. He decided to follow the Bard and the soldier instead.

The queen tried once more to rake Kyri with her fingers but all of the fighting adventurers were ready for her. They cut her down all together; clubs and swords landing upon her and forcing her to the ground. Finally she could join her husband in eternal rest.

With the battle over, the group took stock of their situation. Sarmboc was still mostly unconscious. Ariston, Jonathan and Syndylys were barely able to walk. Looking around, the skeletons were no where to be seen. The crypts of the king and queen appeared bare. However, Ariston roused himself enough to begin stripping the armor from the king’s body. It was still in outstanding shape, glistening slightly in the torchlight and was just his size. He liked the little crested waves on some of the scales but silently wished they were something sylvan instead. The cleric took the mace of office gently from Viledel’s unmoving hand while Syndylys removed the circlet of gold from his separated head.

Searching this area of the chamber, they found yet another tomb. However, this one had been bricked over. A finely engraved bronze plaque was centered on the wall. It read:

Here lies Prince Horedel
Brought Down by Illness
In the Twentieth Year of Viledel’s Reign
Ariston, Jael, Jonathan and Flavius examined the wall. Not knowing what else to do, they began to bash it, trying to break the bricks. Chae did not participate. He was focused on comforting Melisana who still seemed upset over their near death experience.

Syndylys, Kyri and Chronos slowly walked in the direction of the skeletons. They did not relish being attacked again in the party’s current condition. They found the skeletons huddled together in a far corner. They appeared to be either flattening themselves against the wall or unsuccessfully trying to climb it. The also found a very large wooden door, twenty feet wide and perhaps as much tall. A lever was on the wall to the right of the door.

“We should put those spirits out of their misery, like we did to their king and queen,” said Chronos.

“Ok,” said Syndylys. Kyri said nothing and went to examine the lever.

Syndylys and Chronos began bashing at the skeletons who did nothing to oppose them. It was quick and odd work. When they were done, they turned to Kyri.

“Well, what do you think?” asked Chronos.

“I say we try to lift it up. It probably opens the huge door. I also thought I heard water or wind on the other side. I definitely heard thunder.” Kyri motioned for the other two to put their ear against the wood.

Kyri lifted the lever which moved easily. At first there was no response. Then, slowly and creakily, the wood started to rise but then stopped. A squeak of twisting wood came from the door.

“Uh oh,” said Kyri. Syndylys began to back away from the door. Kyri followed suit.

“Uh oh what?” said Chronos.

“Move away from the door, priest,” said Syndylys. The door began to creak and pop. It was buckling in the middle. However, a great blast of cold wind and rain crashed into the chamber. Lightning flashed but when it was over, it looked completely dark.

As the realization hit the three adventurers that it was dark outside, the door splintered with a loud boom. Splinters of wood showered them, hanging in their hair and rag clothing.

On the other side, in a flash of lightning, they could see a tiny figure, perhaps a human child. It was wet and barely moving but started to slowly stand. It stood on a deck and the deck jutted into the water inside a cave.

“Orin!” yelled Syndylys. “You are alive.”

“I think I am. I was almost not. I was hoping you would find me but I had resigned myself to being scoured. It is almost dark.” The Halfling looked a mess. What remained of his rags were ripped, wet and dirty. He was covered with bruises and small cuts. He was definitely developing a black eye and he was favoring his left arm as if it was broken or severely sprained.

Chronos helped Orin and looked at his wounds. The priest thought the arm was just tender not broken. Together, the group of four joined the others back at the bricked in tomb.

“Orin,” called Chae. “I am glad you are still alive little guy. You missed all of the excitement with the king and queen. Turns out they were not quite dead yet.”

“What does that mean?” Orin asked but then he saw the remains of the two royals. “Oh,” he said.

The others were still bashing in the wall and soon had a Halfling sized hole. Using Syndylys’ torch, Orin slipped in and everyone could see their final prize: a boat, a gloriously large, seaworthy boat. However, Orin stopped in his tracks and yelped. He saw someone in the boat.

“Orin, what is it?” asked Flavius. He knew that they were not really up for another fight.

“Oh,” said Orin. “I think I found the prince.”

Lying in the boat was the body of a man. His clothes were old but he was also wearing chain mail and held a large bastard sword and a shield painted with crested waves. He was surrounded by grave goods: several small chests and golden dining ware. The man was unmoving but Flavius and Ariston hurriedly removed more bricks so they could help Orin if he needed them.

The entire party started to remove bricks as they needed to make a much wider hole. From where they stood, they could see lightning and hear thunder through the open large doorway. The cave made it look dark as if night were upon them but since they were still alive, they knew they had not yet reached the goddess’ deadline.

Once the hole was big enough, they began pushing and pulling the boat. Melisana stopped and looked quizzically at the entrance to this large tomb.

“Did anyone hear that?” she asked. No one had heard anything.

“Sounds like shouting,” she continued. Then she heard it again. Clearly someone had found the secret hallway and was coming this way.

“Let’s hurry!” urged Orin as he climbed into the boat to supervise. He gently stepped around the body of Horedel.

As they began to push the heavy boat down the room, Kyri could see warm shapes moving rapidly at the entrance. The party’s torchlight did not extend that far but there was no mistaking what she saw with her infravision.

“Everyone,” she started, “we have company.”

They were nearly out of the hole but Kyri could see five large man sized shapes moving quickly. As they got closer, she could tell that one was different. He was bigger and his heat image was different somehow.

“Everyone get in the boat, I will push it in the last bit,” exclaimed Flavius.

“We will be too heavy,” cautioned Ariston.

“Just get in the boat or we won’t get away,” responded Flavius. The boat was now outside the door and resting on the dock. The figures were clearly Orcs and closing in. They could be heard running towards the group.

Most of the group clambered inside. Flavius squinted into the darkness then put his shoulder to the stern of the boat.

Flavius gave one final push and the boat slid off the dock. He stole a glance backwards and saw the Orcs were nearly upon him. The lead one was clearly different. He was a good three inches taller than any of the others, and his skin was greener. His ugly Orc nose was pierced with a straight bone and he had a necklace of feathers and bones which hung down to his hairless chest. But what struck Flavius most was the wooden stick the Orc held. It was like a paddle with pieces of squarish metal stuck into the sides but the creature held it like a sword. The determination to kill the group was clear on the Orc’s face.

The boat was pulling away from the dock and Flavius jumped as hard as he could. He felt as if in slow motion. An arrow (where did that come from, he thought) appeared in the stern of the boat as he moved through the air. For a second, he thought he was not going to make it but he did although a little clumsily. Most of him landed on Chronos, knocking the priest back but not out. His shin hit the gunwale and a stab of pain drove straight through him. A few more arrows hit the boat but none struck any of the characters.

As a flash of lightning streaked across the sky, the little boat shot out of the mouth of the cave. There was little time to note (but both the Halfling and the Scout noticed) the large statutes carved into the rock of the small cavern. They were of the king and queen and perhaps their ancestors, standing silently while guarding the sea entrance to the tombs.

The group did look back and see the group of Orcs turn around and head back into tombs. The big one stared for a moment but eventually turned as well. The adventurers had little time to ponder the Orcs, however. The little boat and its crew were being tossed and buffeted by the wind and waves. Loud crashes of thunder and jagged spears of lightning surrounded them. Jael had a stoic look upon her face but Kyri looked a little worried. Orin watched her and grew worried himself. Flavius and Ariston had the oars and feverishly struggled to get the boat further out to sea.

The sky overhead was completely covered in storm clouds, but the group could still see the island. It seemed to be lit by a faint glow, enough for them to see what was going on. Tornados, 10 or 12 at least, descended from the heavy mantle of clouds cloaking the sky. The tornados began tearing along the island and stripping great tracts of territory up into the air. Hurricane-force winds scoured the island and from the characters’ vantage point they could see the ruins of the town, plus the manor, barracks, and stable, begin to disintegrate, being thrown plank by plank and beam by beam into the air. The Orc and Goblin boats on the beaches were driven up onto the beach, torn apart by the winds and battering seas. Crews could be seen running, scattering, some of them being thrown like leaves up against the cliff side, others swept out to sea by the waves.

By the time the little boat was a quarter of a mile out to sea, the rocking and pitching had begun to subside. It no longer threatened to throw Orin overboard. But things were worse, not better, back on the island, which seemed strangely obscured, covered from shore to shore by a gray-brown whirlwind of rocks and scrub brush and sand and sea which seemed to scour the island.

By the time the boat was a mile away, the whirlwind lifted and the island was gray-white and smooth, resembling not at all the island the group had landed upon the day before. There was not one hill, not one topographical feature that they remembered. Suddenly, the seas around them were still, the clouds overhead clear, and the stars and moon could be seen overhead.

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