The following story uses the Characters of Mynazzaraxxsyn and Nilan with their permission. I would like to take this moment to thank everyone for their encouragement and tough love. Enjoy.
Gasping for damp Underdark air and flicking his head in vain attempts to remove the sweat dripping into his eyes, the duergar obediently struggled down the twisting corridor after his illithid master. Kazaromoc was near collapsing. The bags full of ore and gems seemed to grow heavier with each step. Even with the great strength and stamina of a stout duergar, he could not trudge forever carrying such a load. ‘I must not slow and disappoint Master,’ he chanted like a mantra of endurance as he hitched his burden higher and forced yet another couple of steps.
‘We will stop here,’ the illithid projected about an hour later as it surveyed the easily defensible cavern.
"As you wish, Master," the former-priest replied and thought ‘Such a kind master to let me rest.’ Collapsing under his load, Kazaromoc blacked out.
‘Set up camp immediately. We leave in six ...’ it began as it turned to see the crumpled form of its slave. Mynazzaraxxsyn was irritated. ‘Useless,’ it thought. ‘Your idleness and inactivity endanger me.’ It debated the need of the dwarf against the joy and satisfaction torturing him into action would bring. The former won, so it sat upon a boulder partially covered with luminous fungus and clutched at its torn side. It needed to regain strength. Shifting to a more comfortable position, the illithid brought on a meditative trance.
Mynazzaraxxsyn awoke with a jerk, and with the quiver of a surprised mouth tentacle, sent a psychic wave radiating throughout the cavern, blasting the thrall off his feet and crumpling him in pain.
"Careful Master, ye will pull d’wound," the duergar stammered as he regained his feet. The illithid made no comment as he took in the cavern. The bulging bags of precious metals lay partially concealed between two rock outcroppings. A fire pit had been dug and a tiny blaze was stirring. Kazaromoc sensed the illithid’s milky-white gaze and fearing punishment of his unordered impudence, related the situation.
"I needed deh fire t’cauterize yer wound and I figured that I would serve ye better after a hot meal fer the next leg o’ our journey."
‘Prepare to leave at once.’
"Aye, Master" the relieved thrall stammered as he stomped the flames out of existence and started packing gear.
Mynazzaraxxsyn took the opportunity to examine his injuries. The wound was cauterized, as the tightness of flesh suggested, and was bandaged with salves in a professional field dressing.
"Master, I’ll be need’n to tend yer wound and be change’n d’bandage."
The illithid was no fool. Its wound was serious and would mend quickly under the attentions of a cleric. ‘Former cleric,’ it corrected. The idea of embarrassment and anger it would feel upon entering Ixarkon while displaying signs of weakness was unacceptable.
"I’m sorry I canna’ heal ye with magic," Kazaromoc lamented with a slight sigh, "but Laduguer will not heed my prayers."
If the illithid were capable of frowning, it would have. Something was amiss. The thrall was not only showing signs of renewing intelligence, but independence as well. Setting up a mind-link and shifting through Kazaromoc’s brain yielded no disloyal results, so putting it on the back-burner to ponder later, the illithid turned its powerful mind onto the arrival at Ixarkon.
Nilan hung upside-down from the ceiling strapped to his lizard mount. Far below him the Del'Armgo family house and property stretched for miles illuminated in a gaudy display of faerie fire. Nudging the buckle loose with a deft flick of his fingers and pulling Shadow free of its sheath in one fluid movement, he dropped into the night. The headlong free fall eventually slowed to a glide as innate powers of levitation were evoked, and he touched down lightly upon the smooth stone. The alert sentry, focused on the streets, crumpled in shock. His cries of alarm were muffled by a cut throat and lungs rapidly filling with blood as Nilan tore the blade free.
Ignoring the convulsions of the guard, the assassin removed a small vial from a black velvet pouch, the contents of which had cost him a small fortune. Unstopping and swallowing the vial’s contents, Nilan squinted momentarily as the night was lit up with blue auras revealing the magical properties of objects surrounding him. He groaned as the door before him flashed in blue light. Inspecting it, the assassin found no key hole. Cursing silently, he realized that only a magic phrase or password would grant him silent access to the Del’Armgo compound. Nilan stepped back, gazing at the door in growing frustrating as he pondered the options before him. Ever the hasty one, Nilan shrugged as he withdrew a rolled parchment from within the folds of his cloak. The assassin paused only briefly, to whisper a prayer to Vhaeraun, before he recited the words contained in the scroll. Nilan closed his eyes as the air tingled with the feel of magic, and power burned from the page as the scroll burst into flames. The explosion blasted the door open with a loud bang, staggering the drow momentarily as the heat burned his skin. Nilan winced with the sudden impact but quickly steadied himself. Spinning to his left, he pressed his back to the cold wall and listened intently. Minutes passed. All that could be heard were the occasional moo of a random rothe. A smile formed on his lips as he surveyed the blasted door. Vhaeraun’s Hand had gained access to the Del’Armgo compound.
‘Quiet!’ Myazzeraxysn demanded as it sensed life forms nearby.
Kazaromoc lowered his burden and withdrew his mace. "What is it?"
"Probably those lazy scum who ran ‘way. How many are left?"
The illithid sent its consciousness further and slipped unnoticed into the minds of the unwary. ‘Come.’ The thrall shrugged at not receiving an answer. Goblins were no big deal; it would take many to overcome them both. Leaving his mace dangling by his hip in easy reach, he gathered up the ore and followed a couple steps behind his master. Guttural voices could be heard minutes later. The passage intersected a huge cavern halfway up the cavern’s wall in a shear sixteen-foot drop. Numerous stalagmites and stalactites sprouted from the floor and ceiling naturally resembling the gaping jaws of a dragon. Kazaromoc crawled on his belly to peer over the edge and into the encampment. It was indeed the goblin deserters. They had carelessly created a large fire; sure to draw attention from the many exiting tunnels. Kazaromoc could hear them plainly now, but his goblin was terrible and he understood little.
"Who died and made you king!" demanded one of the larger goblins as he snatched the roasted leg from another.
The black-splotched goblin pointed to the hunk of charred meat scorching above the fire pit. "Grukluk did."
"We all killed him," spat a third, rising from his seat and pelting the speaker with a gnawed finger bone that slowly slid down the target’s hairy chest in a trail of sticky saliva.
Any further comments were stifled as a bony forehead crashed into the offender’s face with a loud crack and infighting erupted.
"About nine o’ them," Kazaromoc reported as he shifted back into the tunnel.
‘Stay here and guard the gems.’
‘Soon there will be others to perform the task of a rothe,’ the illithid promised as he summoned his powers and stepped off the ledge. The illithid slowly descended above the warring group and when an opening presented itself, dropped the remaining seven feet into their midst. The sounds of grunts and scuffles were replaced by shrieks of agony as the illithid unleashed his mental crush and claimed the band as its own.
The illithid, followed by his retinue of thralls, marched down the dank Underdark tunnels until the duergar slave paused, bringing the line to a halt.
‘What is it?’ demanded the irritated illithid.
Kazaromoc dropped to a knee and bowed his head in supplication. "Master, I think it best if we camp here. We’re near d’outskirts of Menzoberranzan’s patrol area."
Mynazzaraxxsyn shifted through the thoughts of his duergar thrall for the location of his ever emerging independence for what seemed like the hundredth time.
‘You think?! You think?! You are not supposed to think!!’
"But .. Master. I just be serve’n ye."
‘QUIET!’ the illithid projected with enough force to stagger the sturdy duergar. ‘If I can not control you, I shall kill you.’
"Master, m’death would not gain ye anything."
‘It shall gain me peace of mind! Slave!’ Mynazzaraxxsyn mentally spit this last word with a wave of power. A blast that tumbled the duergar in a backwards roll to thwack against the cavern wall with a meaty thud. The illithid gave its version of a cackle. Kazaromoc would never rise again.
Nilan knew the wizard was close. Every instinct and sinew of the experienced drow hinted of his target’s presence. The air tasted of the arcane and reeked of ozone. Another turn up the broad stairwell dead-ended into a door concentrated with blue auras. Nilan cursed at yet another magical door and squinted in an attempt to shield his eyes from the harsh candlelight blazing from the cracks under the door. Shadow hummed eerily in the palm of the assassin’s deadly hand. The sentient blade sensed the impending kill. Nilan sensed it too and felt the blade’s insatiable desire to feed.
"Soon, very soon, you shall drink the blood of the Spider Queen’s slave," the assassin whispered coldly as ebon fingers caressed the blade’s shadowed hilt. Nilan touched his black mask in a reverent caress and whispered a prayer to Vhaeraun, "Grant me victory this day, Masked Lord of Shadows," he paused allowing the divine shadows to surround him before continuing with a silent but deadly whisper, "Let the mage come to me." A thin smile found its way onto his lips and he gripped Shadow’s hilt tightly.
Passing the bodies of a male drow, a bugbear, and a trio of goblinkin, the drow retraced his steps to the mage’s bedchamber. Another enchanted doorway, this one magically trapped as the flashing blue aura only confirmed the assassin’s suspicions. Nilan paused for a moment, pressing his back against the door as he tensed all of his muscles. Suddenly, the assassin launched himself into the air, kicking out at the door with both booted feet and rebounded in a head-long roll that brought him upright and running. Spinning blades filled the corridor and a fireball detonated, hurtling the drow off his feet and badly burning his back. The assassin groaned as he impacted a wall and staggered to his feet. He ignored the pain, for he was alive, and didn’t have much time to act. Indeed, no sooner had he concealed himself in the shadow of a statue than a black portal opened and his target stepped out with dual drawn wands.
The assassin silently ran down the ally, his braid clung stingingly to his tattered back, damp with sweat and blood from exertion. Clutched under his arm glowed a leather-bound volume of arcane secrets and a severed right hand bedecked with rings. Even through his fatigue and ragged breath, a slight cackle escaped his lips and his heat-sensing eyes gleamed with mirth. The Lloth worshipping mage lay far behind, a gaping hole in his chest where Shadow had drank its fill. Blood pooled around the corpse, a fine throwing dagger imbedded deep within its throat. The dagger was completely black, a nondescript assassin’s dagger, but for the engraved word that ran the length of the blade…. ‘ShadowStalker’. Nilan grinned as he ducked into a entry-way of a recessed door to gather his breath. "For your glory, Vhaeraun," he whispered to the eternal darkness of Menzoberranzan.
Nilan stopped his strut down the Underdark corridor and listened intently. Nothing. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. A sign he had come to trust. For the briefest of moments something had brushed against his refined senses. Shadow hummed in anticipation, stirred to life by its wielder’s abrupt shift in mood.
‘Quiet’ he hissed to the blade as he took the path his first impulse indicated. Again he stopped. Something pulled him onwards. "My br … brother?" he stammered as he slid Shadow free with a frown and continued his forward progress.
Nilan peered into a small cavern from a concealed position behind a stalagmite. Labored breathing reverberated around the chamber inhibiting the assassin’s ability to locate the cause. Moments before the drow moved to investigate, a bloody mound vaguely resembling a pasty white duergar crawled into the open. How the wretch managed even to move that much was beyond him. Certainly the assassin didn’t wish to be around anything that did that much damage to the dark dwarf. Logic told him to go, yet curiosity bade him stay. The internal debate ended with the latter victorious as shadows coalesced in the center of the room.
The duergar’s broken body refused to obey his muscles meager commands.
"Kazaromoc," said gruff voice full of malice. "Are you so weak? Can you not ignore the pain? If so, you were never worth my effort."
Kazaromoc forced open an eye, sending the world spinning and almost blacking out. A bald duergar paced before his prone form. The near-transparent god’s skin changed colors as it walked, the white, brown, and tan matching the cavern wall behind him.
"STAND, DAMN YOU!"
The priest bit his lip with his sharpened teeth to stop the cry from escaping his lungs and struggled to stand erect on two broken legs. A rib bone savagely poked through his chest and yet he stuck it out proudly. While vomiting blooded froth he proclaimed, "Laduguer. My God. My one true master. How may I be of service?"
Laduguer grinned triumphantly. "You have done well my tool. Calling upon my protection to partition your mind, thus hiding yourself from the illithid was… Good. Seeking that partition during a trial of suffering was even better. Do you still serve me wholly?"
Kazaromoc ran his broken fingers over the holy symbol tattooed on his head. "Now, forever, and always. From birth, till the duergar assume their rightful place in the world, and beyond. My life is yours."
"So be it. Priest."
Kazaromoc wobbled unsteadily, yet his cruel smile showed nothing of his corporeal agony. He drew strength and fed off of his god’s presence like luminous fungus on rock. He soothed his wounds in dark glory and flexed his powerful spirit.
"The sneaky arts of mortals do not hinder the Gods," Laduguer spat as a yelp of surprise shattered the moment’s reverie.
Nilan flew through the air, wrenched from his hiding place by the god himself, to land hard on his stomach near Laduguer’s feet. He groaned as he impacted the stone. The all too familiar sound of bone cracking and the bitter taste of blood hinted strongly at a broken rib…or two. Blood oozed from his mouth and Nilan wretched as dizziness assaulted him. The assassin managed to get to his hands and knees, his gaze falling upon the duergar deity.
"You puny drow! Who are you?"
The assassin obtained his feet and tried to stare the god in the eyes. "I am Nilan Al'Shadraazar, Velg'larn, ShadowStalker, Hand of Vhaeraun." Without flinching the assassin met the duergar’s eye, his hand resting on ‘Shadow’s’ hilt giving him the strength he needed. In a show of bravery, he did not feel, the assassin defiantly held his gaze.
The god’s lip curled in an awful sneer. "What is Vhaeraun’s chosen doing here?"
The assassin snickered his response, blood flowing from his mouth, he spat. Nilan never saw the punch but definitely felt the results. The strike dropped him to all fours, causing alterations of gasping for breath and retching painfully.
"Fool," the enraged and enlarged god boomed as he picked up the drow by his long single braid. Nilan’s groan was cut short as a meaty hand wrapped tight around his throat holding him in place dangling several feet off the floor. "It wouldn’t behoove ye to anger me."
Any reply the drow might have mumbled was cut short by a violent backhand that left his arms and legs hanging feebly in the air. Dizziness assaulted him in waves. His head lolled forward in his semi conscious state, his right hand slipping from ‘Shadow’s’ hilt to hang limply at his side.
"Drop him, Laduguer," a cold voice whispered as Vhaeraun himself seemed to materialize from the shadows "Concern yourself with dwarven-kind and leave the drow to me."
"Vhaeraun," the god spat. "Go back to hiding and cowering in the shadows before I kill more than your little puppet."
Vhaeraun glared daggers. "My Velg'larn will not be the last to fall! That I promise you."
Laduguer glanced at his unconscious priest. "Perhaps, but nobody insults me and lives."
Vhaeraun placed a disarming smile upon his mask. "Perhaps a compromise?"
Laduguer considered this. His strong hand loosening its grip on the drow assassin’s throat bringing with it a semi-conscious moan. He coldly met Vhaeraun’s gaze. "What do you have that could possibly interest me, Lord of Shadows."
Vhaeraun seemed to nod. "Perhaps a certain duergar king’s reign will be cut short." He sneered as shadows swirled about his form. "You know of whom I speak? The one they say sits upon a throne in the clan halls, the one that doesn’t pay you homage."
Laduguer’s eyes blazed at the insinuation. "Bargained well, and done." With that, the duergar god disappeared, dropping the unconscious drow to land hard upon the rocky floor.
"Velg'larn," the shadows seemed to whisper drawing the assassin to a semi conscious state. Nilan muttered groggily as he tried to focus on the divine form of his God.
"Master," came the choked reply.
"Tend to the dwarf, in time your mission will become clear" was all the assassin heard before Vhaeraun was gone and he blacked out again.
It was sometime before Nilan awoke. As he sat up a wave of vertigo assaulted his senses and fought the urge not to vomit again. Eventually his mind was once again content to be still, enabling him to take stock of his injuries. He pressed his hand to his chest and winced. At least one rib was cracked, but in time it would heal.
"What happened?" he asked the darkness before him. The last he remembered he was being beaten to a pulp by a duergar god. ‘Tend to the dwarf’ echoed in his thoughts. ‘Vhaeraun wants me to save the duergar? Why?’ Nilan shrugged. It wasn’t his place to question his master; he was the hand, not the brain. Surveying the bloody mess of the dark dwarf yielded dark blood dried in contrast to the white skin. Puss oozed from still weeping wounds. The assassin sighed.
Nilan withdrew a vial of blue liquid out of a belt pouch and pulled the cork with care. Healing potions were expensive and not to be wasted. He knelt next to the battered body and pulled on the duergar’s squared beard, simultaneously lifting the heavy bald head and opening his mouth. The dark dwarf took the potion with only a gurgle. With that task completed the assassin began to pace.
‘The potion will help keep his body alive, but his spirit has drifted too far. I can’t drag this fat corpse and were would I bring him?’
Nilan frowned, his brows knitting together in concentration. ‘He needs either a priest or… I wonder.’
Having made his decision on the spur of the moment, he shifted through the contents of his velvet pouch. Near the bottom lay a rarely used malachite ring. Kneeling once again, the assassin slid the ring onto the duergar’s finger and let out a string of curses that would make a troll’s mother blush. The ring would not fit any finger.
Nilan snatched a nondescript dagger from the folds of his cloak and took the dwarf’s hand. "It’s your fault you know" he whispered in apology as he carved meat and flesh from a finger. ‘It works’ he shrugged as he easily slipped the ring onto the wet finger which activated the enchantment and levitated duergar a few feet off the floor.
"Lets go. The lich awaits."
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3 posts • Page 1 of 1
Great story Kaz. I guess I need to keep up and get more of mine out.
Lilithelle stops using a softly throbbing piece of flesh.
Gura group-says 'ill go solo the biznatch, just don't tell Stamm'
Kossuth responds to your petition with 'is it bad that the two words i think of when i see yer title are hottub and cthulhu? :('
Gura group-says 'ill go solo the biznatch, just don't tell Stamm'
Kossuth responds to your petition with 'is it bad that the two words i think of when i see yer title are hottub and cthulhu? :('
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