We arrived in Irolan and were quickly approached by a sergeant of the City Watch who escorted us to see Duke Magnuson, the 13th of his line. As he guided us, my superior hearing gifted to me by The Fates enabled me to hear him explain the current situation even as I remained in the comfort of the carriage.
He explained that the Duke attended the scheduled execution of a criminal with little importance. As the axe fell, the criminal’s head rolled not into the basket, but into the crowd. When it came to rest, it was the face not of the criminal, but of Duke Magnuson. At that point, the executioner pulled off his hood to reveal that although his body may have appeared to be human, his head was a skull covered in silver. Just then, a winged “creature” flew down, grabbed the Duke’s daughter, Elizabeth, while the silver-headed executioner jumped onto the beasts back and they flew off INTO the royal crypts.
Apparently, the Duke was quite angry with the City Watch because the cowards refused to enter the crypts and rescue his daughter. As a simple matter of deduction, one is to conclude that no one else in the entire city was brave enough either. So, to both reassure the citizenry and to demonstrate a small amount of our power, as I stepped out of the carriage, I called upon the mystical forces of the universe and summoned a freak lightning storm over the city that would last for the better part of the day.
In an attempt to help, my apprentice, Star, also turned the carriage invisible. I must remember to encourage the boy, but does he seriously think that vanishing a coach for a few minutes is anywhere near to what I called into being? I’ll need to ensure he’s practicing the correct forms and perhaps enlighten him with some of my knowledge. Not too much, for I fear it would be too much for the boy.
As we entered the Duke’s palace with a backdrop of lightning and thunder, we were quickly escorted to the audience chamber where we found a very stressed, angry father, mumbling about how he’s surrounded by cowards. He replayed what the sergeant told us and assured us that he would make it “worth our while” if we could save his daughter, Elizabeth. He explained that no one had been in the crypts for several decades when his father was interred. Star was very uncouth and demanded a gold ring as some sort of pre-payment. Before I reprimanded him, he explained it was for his Runic Magic of which I applauded his pursuit. He seems quite skilled and that may be the path upon which his Fate lies. I cannot fault him for pursuing a course of study less arduous.
A guard led us through the lower levels of the palace to a wooden door leading to the crypts. We rested from our journey there and prepared for what lay ahead. I used the knowledge I’ve gained to summon forth a companion from the Other Side, who I named Marley. It was quite an experience and I’ll have to pursue that knowledge at a later date.
When one of the hirelings touched the crypt door, it transformed into a ghostly apparition of an old man wearing royal clothing. The apparition pointed at the Magnuson family crest, then at us, and then disappeared only to have the crypt door reappear. Donald, I think his name is, assisted Marley in pushing the door open by force. He did say that it felt like “someone walked over his grave” when he did so. I can only assume that he was gifted a premonition of his Fate since one could not possibly know what that particular sensation would feel like. I did not correct him. I’ve found it best to let the troops have their superstitions. It comforts them in a way the Gifted will never understand.
Past the crypt door, we saw a large, long rectangular room with thirteen sarcophagi on the left, presumably for the Duke’s forefathers and himself. It does beg the question, who built this and when? Did they KNOW that there would only be thirteen generations? If so, what is the Magnuson’ family’s fate? Across from the sarcophagi were thirteen ossuaries containing what I assume were the bones of the Dukes’ families.
I had Brume and Marley do a quick circuit of the room. After detecting no noticeable threats, Donald, Slim, Star, and Short Round entered the room and opened the first three sarcophagi. I kept Brume and Marley there as guards. It was a good thing, too, because Marley’s supernatural strength helped opening the tombs. Each one held the skeletal remains of what we can only presume were Duke Magnuson’s ancestors. Each skeleton was missing its skull and another part of the bones. For instance, the first was missing its right forearm, the second its left hand, etc. The rogues absconded with the jewelry buried with each along with their signet rings, but I had Marley bring me something much more valuable – a thigh bone of each ruler. I look forward to what I can do with such components.
After opening the third tomb, everyone who was not holding a torch (or lantern) felt nauseated and weak as the very shadows clung to them. Fortunately for me, Ming had passed me his precious lantern as he lit a torch. He may be a ferocious warrior, but he still fears the dark. I shan’t mock him because his fear worked in our favor.
Star tried a difficult spell and called forth a rather weak arc of flame which seemed to cause one of the shadows some pain. So, in an attempt to teach my pupil, I demonstrated how one trained in the Arcane Arts commands the Powers of the Universe. I sent three blistering gouts of flame into the animated shadows delighting in their corrupt shrieks of pain until I was transported into the Else. I will discuss that after so as not to ruin this gripping narrative.
When I returned, I heard my darling Daphne explain, “Thank Amun-Tor”. I forget how easily frightened she can become when I leave her. Apparently, the group were able to hold off the animated shadows until they finally fled. Ming was especially grateful to Billy Bob for saving his dog, Zeus.
Now that the group had my reassuring presence back, they went through the remaining coffins with renewed vigor. All of which were missing their skulls and a seemingly random set of additional bones. All except the thirteenth coffin which held no body, but rather a dark, steep staircase leading even further into the bowels of the Earth. Under my command, the group descended bravely into what turned into a natural cavern with a swift river flowing through it. In the middle of the river, there was a tower easily as tall as fifteen adult men stacked on top of each other. It was leaning at an angle indicating the river water had eroded the base of the tower of stone.
Off to the side was a disturbing circle of a dozen skulls and one empty depression surrounding a skeleton obviously made from the missing bones we noticed in the coffins, but without a skull. Of course, none of my traveling companions were able to identify what was obviously a necromantic revivification circle. I am filled with righteous anger at the corruption this represents and now understand our mission. Not to rescue the Duke’s daughter, but to eradicate this foulness of Chaos.
As promised, I will now detail my brief, but very enlightening trip into the Else.
First of all, it is difficult to describe and although it seemed like a very short time to my companions, it was a rich reward for my unwavering pursuit of knowledge and the extinction of Chaos.
Upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that I was imparted with knowledge not held by a mortal in ages. I believe I’ve learned of the existence of a handmaiden of The Fates, by the name of Idisi. I shall work to petition for her help in my quest and, with a little luck supplied by our affable Halfling friend, I should be able to summon a powerful ally from the Else that will aid in my struggles and studies.
I shall endeavor to learn more about this and will hopefully be gifted with another trip to the Else so I could further expand my already impressive intellect.