Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Eight: Return to White Plume Mountain - Chapter 7

Late in the morning of Earthday, the 27th day of Flocktime, in the Common Year of 580, after having been forced to retreat by a band of subsumed gnomes under the control of the False Keraptis known as Spatterdock, and then finding another route into the territory controlled by Spatterdock’s forces, the Righteous Vanguard managed to defeat the same group of subsumed gnomes with a decisive counterstrike and soon afterwards blasted their way through two more rooms also containing groups of subsumed gnomes. With a number of their spells still working to aid them, despite the fact that Kieranen and Nicholas were hampered by a slow spell, the band wanted make the most of the time still remaining on these spells, as well as take advantage of their sudden advancement deep into the heart of Spatterdock’s territory. So onward they pressed, throwing caution to the wind, and quickly followed a passageway leading north where they hoped to continue their recent success.

As they had expected, following the map given to them by Nicholas’ father Vaerdal, the passageway soon turned to the east and then again back to the south, where it then opened up into a large natural cavern that echoed with strange plopping and splattering noises. Here, the floor of the passageway came to an abrupt end at a ledge that loomed fifty feet over a vast sea of boiling mud. A thick, earthy odor wafted through the chamber as eruptions of mud periodically exploded from below and coated the walls and ceiling of the cavern in mud some one hundred feet above. Far across the cavern was another ledge and a passageway that led from it into the darkness beyond. In between the two ledges was a series of nine wooden disks each about four feet in diameter and suspended from a chain attached to the ceiling of the cavern. Obviously intended as a means to traverse across the sea of boiling mud, the mud-covered bridge of disks looked quite risky at the very least and that was without the threat of being struck by globs of boiling mud along the way.

The band quickly decided they would much prefer an alternate means of reaching the far ledge and came up with the plan of having Nero dimension door himself along with Kieranen, Nicholas and Dravos, while Ael would utilize a potion of flying and Gildor would use his wings of flying. Nero, Kieranen, Nicholas and Dravos were the first to reach the far ledge. But as soon as they appeared on the ledge, one of them spotted a symbol engraved upon the wall, which suddenly began to glow. A powerful wave of magical energy then passed through each of them, threatening to stun them all. Fortunately, each of them was able to fight off the magical effect and remained ready and alert. However, as they would soon discover, this was only the beginning of a barrage of magical attacks launched by Spatterdock and his last remaining dozen of subsumed gnomes, which had been there waiting for them.

Invisibly hidden at the far end of the passageway, Spatterdock, in the form of a halfling, and his gnomes suddenly appeared just as several spells were launched. Most of these spells though caused no harm to the band as they were able to fight off their effects. One such spell Kieranen was able to dodge out of the way of, as he was almost trapped within a sphere of magical force. One spell however, did have a devastating effect on the band as Nero fell victim to a feeblemind spell. Only his magical helm saved him from becoming almost completely mindless, though he was still only able to attack with his mace having no ability to cast spells or use magic items. Once Spatterdock’s first wave of spells had been launched, another creature appeared at his side as it too attacked the band. This creature was the vampire known as Ctenmiir, whom Nicholas’ father had encountered when he visited the mountain 20 years before. In the vampire’s possession was the magical hammer called Whelm. He threw the magical hammer at the band and fortunately missed his target. But the hammer then suddenly vanished and reappeared back in the hands of the vampire, ready to be thrown again for another attack. Meanwhile, as all of this was taking place, Gildor and Ael were flying across the cavern trying to dodge blobs of boiling mud as they shot up towards the ceiling.

With their enemies now clearly in sight, the Righteous Vanguard was then able to react to the sudden attack, some of whom took defensive measures, while others went on the offensive. In return, Spatterdock and his subsumed gnomes continued tossing spells at the band while Ctenmiir continued throwing the magical hammer at them. Fortunately for the band, none of their enemies’ attacks at this point were particularly effective. Then Gildor used his recently acquired spell-like ability to cast a fireball and managed to wipe out all of the subsumed gnomes in a single blow. Soon after this, Nero, being unable to do much of anything else, and his familiar Raaz, who realized that something was wrong with her master but did not know what, moved in with Dravos to attack their adversaries in hand-to-hand combat.

With the loss of his subsumed gnomes, the spell casting ability of Spatterdock was greatly diminished. But his next spell proved to be very effective in turning the tide of the battle in his favor, as he then threw up an invisible wall of force, cutting Nero and Dravos off from his companions. More importantly, the rest of the band was unable to affect the battle or come to the aid of Nero and Dravos who now had to face their two enemies alone. And with Nero and Raaz being only a minor threat to them, they focused their attacks on Dravos. It did not take long for Dravos to fall, having been drained of life energy by the vampire’s evil touch. Spatterdock and Ctenmiir then turned their attention to Nero.

But it was at about that time, when Ael made a desperate attempt at saving his newfound friends’ lives by concocting an elixir which would normally be beyond his ability, but which he had recently been studying. This elixir mimicked a spell known as a magic jar and it allowed him to place his life force within a gem from which he could then attempt to change places with another being.

His first two attempts at changing places with another being, which he tried on Spatterdock and Ctenmiir, were both unsuccessful. But his third attempt, which he made on Nero, met with success. Suddenly, Ael now found himself within the body of Nero, while Nero’s feebleminded psyche was trapped within a gem and cut off from Raaz, which panicked the poor familiar even further. It was Ael’s hope at this point, that he would be able to make use of an item or two on Nero’s body and somehow save him.

But before he got the opportunity to do so, Nicholas suddenly rose up out of the floor in the form of an earth elemental, which he was able to assume with the aid of his magical necklace. Nicholas also shined with the brightness of daylight, thanks to a spell cast upon him by Gildor before Nicholas made his way through the stone and beneath the wall of force. The light emanating from Nicholas was so intense in fact, that it caused the vampire Ctenmiir to quickly back away in utter distress. Nicholas then took advantage of the vampire’s vulnerability and, making great use of his Crystal of the Eight, cut the vampire down with a blinding series of devastating strikes. Suddenly the vampire was no more – reduced to a misty cloud of vapor that quickly wisped away under the crack of a nearby door.

In desperation, Spatterdock reverted to his actual form, that of an ogre mage, and cast a charm monster spell on Ael, now in the body of Nero. To his great relief, the spell actually worked on Ael, and he ordered Ael to defend him against the attacks of Nicholas. Ael then had no choice but to try and keep Nicholas from harming Spatterdock, both of whom he now perceived as trusted allies. So Ael grabbed on to Nicholas in the hopes that he could hold on to him. Spatterdock then cast a deep slumber spell on Nicholas and once again was very pleased when the ranger suddenly dozed off in the arms of Nero!

Looking around now, Spatterdock realized he was no longer in immediate danger. But the wall of force would not be up for much longer. So he told his newly acquired ally Ael to save his companion Dravos, whose unconscious body had been lying on the floor for some time now while his life blood slowly drained away. No doubt, Spatterdock believed Dravos would be of more use to him alive than dead, for he would need to create another batch of subsumed minds. Ael, quickly checked Dravos’ vital signs and seeing that he was still alive, though just barely, he rummaged around in Nero’s pockets and found a healing potion which he then administered to Dravos. It was enough to stop Dravos’ bleeding and keep him alive, but not enough for him to regain consciousness. Spatterdock then had Ael drag Dravos’ body back into an adjacent room while he carried Nicholas’ sleeping body and closed the door behind them.

Kieranen and Gildor meanwhile, were unable to get beyond the wall of force, and so were forced to watch in helplessness as their fellow band members were taken away. All they could do was to prepare themselves for when the wall of force finally came down, as it was now up to them to kill Spatterdock and save the lives of their companions. Fortunately, they did not have long to wait, though it almost certainly seemed long to them.

When the wall of force did finally come down, Kieranen and Gildor charged down the passageway and burst through the door where Spatterdock was waiting for them. The ogre mage then blasted them with one of his last remaining spells, a cone of cold, catching Gildor with a direct hit and destroying some of his possessions in the process, including his wings of flying. Ael, still under the influence of the charm spell, tried to hold Kieranen back, but was easily pushed aside. Kieranen, then using the full powers of his oath blade and all of his skills as a warrior, fell upon the ogre mage and with the aid of Gildor, quickly dropped him.

With the False Keraptis known as Spatterdock now dead, the charm spell on Ael came to an end, and Nicholas was awakened. They then retrieved Ael’s body from the passageway, and Ael resumed his proper place allowing Nero to return to his body. Dravos was healed up and regained consciousness. Then they cured Nero’s feeblemindedness with a rare heal all potion that Kieranen had been saving. Gildor continued to heal the party’s injuries while the rest of the band looked around in Spatterdock’s quarters. There they found a coffin in which they discovered the prone and virtually helpless form of the vampire Ctenmiir. Kieranen quickly fashioned a stake and drove it through the vampire’s chest as the sunlight still emanating from Nicholas’ body gradually burned the undead creature into a pile of ash.

Soon, all was back to normal for the band with the exception of Dravos who was still suffering from the negative energy attack of the vampire. Lying on the floor they found the hammer Whelm. So Nero opened up his portable hole and kicked the hammer into it, as nobody wanted to touch it. In Spatterdock’s quarters they also found some very valuable books as well as those magic items found on the ogre mage’s body including his huge great sword. They also found a collection of maps showing various parts of the mountain complex.

At this point, the band was seriously considering resting for a long time so they could regain spells. But it then occurred to them that it was still early in the day and that they had not found Nicholas’ brother Echab. Looking at one of the maps, they realized that there was only a small portion of Spatterdock’s territory where they had not been to yet, and it seemed very likely that they might find Echab there. However, it also meant that they would have to cross over the sea of boiling mud to get there. They looked through what items and spells they had remaining then and were able to come up with a plan to get them safely across. This time, Nero would dimension door himself and three others, while Nicholas would assume the form of an air elemental and another made use of a potion of gaseous form.

With this plan successfully completed, the band then made their way back to the second room where they had encountered a group of subsumed gnomes and took the passageway that led south. Soon they came to a small room that was empty save for a table and a few chairs. On the far side of the room was a door with an iron grill in it. They checked the door and found that it was magically locked.

So Nero cast a knock spell on it and unlocked it. When they opened the door they found five bodies hanging from wires that were attached to the ceiling. Appearing at first as if all the bodies were dead, they then realized that two of them were still alive and that one of them was Nicholas’ brother Echab. Naturally the two brothers were happy to see each other once again and there were many questions they had for each other. But first they had to unfasten the two living captives from the ceiling.

The other prisoner appeared to be a woman who had obviously been held captive much longer than Echab. She told them her name was Snarla and she appeared to think that Kieranen was somebody called Burket. She kept calling him by that name despite his insistence that he was not Burket. Dravos detected her alignment and found that she was chaotic evil, which he let his other companions secretly know.

Both Echab and Snarla had magical armbands welded on to their wrists and Echab explained to them that the armbands were put there to prevent them from using any magic or shape-changing abilities. Echab also told them that in the adjacent room was a sphinx who served as their jailer and torturer and encouraged the band to deal with her before leaving. So the band opened the door and was immediately introduced to the sphinx named Sapho, who appeared to be in poor condition herself. Upon discovering that Spatterdock was dead, Sapho genuinely seemed to be pleased and pleaded to the band that she was forced to torture the prisoners or be tortured herself. And despite the fact that Dravos detected her as being neutral evil, the band apparently had some sympathy towards her. The sphinx, which was very fond of riddles and convinced the band to answer one of her riddles, told them in secret that Snarla was actually a werewolf and provided a little more information about herself. She also removed the armband from Echab, though they refused to remove the armband from Snarla. In return, they agreed to let both Snarla and Sapho go free.

They also learned that, unfortunately, Echab had also read one of the partial imprint scrolls of Keraptis – the magic missile spell. So it was discovered that he was in the same predicament as Gildor, and it gave the band yet another reason for finding the means to stop the spreading influence of the False Kerapti.

The band agreed, at this point, that it was now time for them to go and retreat back to the city of Greyhawk where they could fix a number of problems and seek out the advice of the Circle of Eight. On their way out, the band passed through the territory of Nightfear once again and made sure to wear their armbands. They told the gnome Kabyle, who was aware that the band had attacked the forces of Spatterdock, that they still had not recovered any of the four weapons, despite the fact that they had wiped out Spatterdock and all of his forces. Telling them that they needed to tend to other matters such as the rescuing of their companion, they assured the gnomes that they would be returning and exited the mountain.

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