Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Nine: The Sorcerer’s Citadel – Chapter 5 – Epilogue

On the morning of Sunday, the 16th day of Wealsun, in the Common Year of 580, the
Righteous Vanguard entered the Tower of the Sorcerer Crane deep in the midst of the
Crystal Mist Mountains. Kieranen and Nero had had quest spells placed on them by the
grey elf Telesaran of the Kingdom of Celene, which required them to go to the sorcerer’s
tower. Telesaran, a High Priest of Labelas Enoreth, had placed the quest spell on the two, in
exchange for restoring Kieranen’s youth to him, following an ill-fated turning of a card, a
week before, from the deck of destinies found in the heart of White Plume Mountain.
As already stated in this history, Telesaran told Kieranen and Nero that he recently had
a vision and saw a glimpse into what he interpreted as being a possible future. Subsequent
divination spells that he cast seemed to confirm his suspicions. He told the two that in this
vision, there was a force of great evil that was currently seeking out an item of tremendous
power which was capable of much devastation and destruction. He told them that their
quest would be to destroy this item of power before it fell into the hands of the evil force.
Telesaran also told the two that in his vision he saw what could result if this item of power
were to be used by the evil force, saying that cities and forests could be destroyed by the
power of this item. He described this item as a sphere of utter darkness which would
literally consume all that came into contact with it. He then went on to tell them where
they could find this sphere and that it had previously been owned by the sorcerer Crane.
Finally, he gave them a rod of cancellation, telling them it could be used to destroy the item of
power, and sent the two on their way.

By midday, on Moonday, the 17th day of Wealsun, the band had collected and assembled
the four parts of a medallion that they assumed would allow them access into the central
chamber where they hoped to find the item of great power, which they now knew to be
an artifact called a sphere of annihilation. Unfortunately by this point, they had also lost their
companion, Book, who apparently fell victim to a teleportation trap and had so far not yet
been located. Nero, the band’s only other arcane spellcaster, was also nearly out of spells
because he had previously been trapped in a magical mirror while his companions were
resting. An augury spell cast by Alavarius seemed to indicate that it might be best to allow
Nero the time to rest and regain spells. So the band held up where they were and spent the
next several hours resting.
It was at about this time that Nero cast a scrying spell and found Book though he could
not precisely determine his location. It seemed as if Book was making his way through a
cave somewhere and an opening up above him shined a reddish light down upon him from
what appeared to be a crimson sky. It was quite possible the he was even on another plane.

Several hours later, when Nero was rested and ready to proceed, the band prepared
themselves for a tough battle as the spellcasters cast a number of preparatory spells. Then
they moved to the nearest door with the familiar symbol and runes upon it. They spoke the
command word, which caused the runes, the symbol and the medallion to glow blue. But
when they placed the medallion into the symbol, as a previous divination spell had indicated
to do, they were suddenly struck with a wracking pain that coursed through their bodies.
Several members of the band made the attempt on several of the doors, each time with the
same disappointing and frustrating results. Thinking that the medallion would only work
on one of the doors, they hit each of these one by one. Eventually, they came to the last
rune-marked door, which was in the mirrored hallway, and finally the medallion worked
as they had expected. Unfortunately, by this point, some of the band’s spells had already
expired or were on the verge of expiring, and some members of the band had needed
healing.

When the medallion was inserted into the symbol of the correct door, the door ignited
with a searing blue light, and its shape altered, forming a misty archway. The archway
reeked with the stench of sulfur and brimstone. The room beyond appeared to be carved
from living rock, though smoke and haze in the room obscured the band’s vision, making
it difficult to determine the chamber’s dimensions. However, some distance into the room,
there could be seen through the haze a strange glowing cube large enough to contain
several men. And before the cube stood three men dressed in black robes, their faces
hidden in the shadows of hoods. These men immediately turned in the direction of the
band. Then the two outer men moved into the smoke to the left and to the right while the
man in the center moved cautiously towards the band. When the central man drew near
he suddenly announced, “You are not my master!” and quickly altered his form, taking the
shape of a winged devil, bristling with terrible spines with a crown of deadly horns, and
grasping in his clawed hand a wickedly barbed chain. Barely discernable through the thick
smoke it appeared the other two robed men underwent similar transformations.

The highly anticipated final battle then began, and though the Righteous Vanguard was
fully expecting it, the horned devils were quick to act and caught several members of the
band flat-footed. The lead devil in the center struck Kieranen with his chain, stunning
him, while another devil summoned in a group of three barbed devils. Dravos tumbled
past the lead devil and came up behind him to attack from a flanking position, but soon
found himself surrounded by devils and in serious danger. Other members of the band did
what they could to fight off the devils, blasting them with spells and bombs, while some
launched a barrage of missile weapons. Many of these attacks however did little if any harm
to the devils which, in turn, fought back with spells of their own, some of which likewise
had little to no effect on the band members. Realizing that their physical attacks were
much more effective, the devils then switched to using their weapons, claws and other
natural attacks and soon were inflicting serious injuries to the band.

In addition to the stunning effects of the horned devils’ chains, their tails caused infernal
wounds that continued to bleed heavily after each hit. The barbed devils, on the other
hand, were difficult to strike in close combat due to the barbs on them which would injure
anyone who simply got too close to the devils. It soon became clear that if the band did
not find another tactic to alter the course of the battle, they would all be in a very dire
situation. Dravos in fact, as was very often the case for him, was by this point on the verge
of dropping at any moment.

But Nero then came up with an idea that he hoped might be the answer to their
desperate predicament. Taking the form of an air elemental, he moved to the far side of
the chamber near the glowing cube and inside the glowing cube, he found what he had
hoped to find – the sphere of annihilation. Using the talisman of the sphere to aid him, he took
control of the sphere and moved it towards the side of the glowing cube. As expected, the
cube disappeared, sucked into the sphere as soon as it touched the side. Nero then directed
the sphere towards one of the devils which had followed him over to the cube. Just like the
cube, the devil vanished as soon as the sphere touched it. Then one by one, Nero did the
same to most of the remaining devils in the room while his companions held them off and
even managed to kill a couple of the devils without the assistance of Nero. Still, it was a
tough battle and once again, Alavarius had to come to the aid of Dravos, barely managing
to stop his bleeding wounds and heal him just seconds before he was about to die.
When the battle was over, the band, Alavarius in particular, tended to the rest of their
injuries while others looked about the room for any other treasure. Other than the meager
possessions found on one of the original devils, the others having vanished without a trace,
there was no other treasure to be found.

Nero then, much to the surprise of many of his companions, took the opportunity to
question Nicholas on a matter that he had apparently been mulling over during the past
couple of days. Nero had obviously been concerned about Nicholas’ recent behavior and
thought that the hammer Whelm might be exerting an unwelcome influence over him. He
asked Nicholas about this and pointed out his use of the hammer of thunderbolts which caused
the avalanche in the battle against the frost giants. Nicholas agreed that in that particular
instance, his use of the hammer in that manner may have been a mistake, but tried to
assure Nero that the hammer Whelm had nothing to do with it. Nicholas also pointed out
that Nero had made similar mistakes in the past with his reckless use of magic, more than
once, which had caused harm to his companions, and he argued that anyone was capable
of making mistakes – it didn’t mean that they were being influenced by some outside
entity. But Nero remained unconvinced and went on to point out Nicholas’ odd behavior
when they arrived at the Sorcerer’s Tower where Nicholas could not wait outside any
longer and hurriedly moved inside the tunnel – almost as if he had a fear of being outside.
He even brought up some concern about the possibility of Nicholas attacking Dravos due
to his large size, a concern that Dravos apparently shared with Nero.

But Nicholas, as one might expect, denied any displays of odd behavior and pointed out
the fact that Whelm was only interested in slaying giants and their kin, neither of which
applied to Dravos. Still, the debate between Nero and Nicholas went on for some time,
while others such as Kieranen offered their opinions to try and bring the debate to an
agreeable resolution. Gradually it became clear to everyone, and Nero eventually pointed it
out himself, that with the sphere of annihilation, they had the perfect opportunity to destroy
the hammer Whelm, which Nero was convinced would at some point cause the band
problems. This was the reason why Nero brought up the subject to begin with, and soon
Nero would destroy the sphere of annihilation and they would then lose an opportunity to
destroy the artifact Whelm. Some members of the band saw the reasoning behind Nero’s
fears and may have even agreed that the hammer Whelm might someday cause problems.
But nevertheless, they generally agreed that it would be wrong to destroy the item now
for fear of something it might do in the future. So in the end it was decided that Nicholas
would be allowed to keep the hammer Whelm – and only time would tell if it would be the
right decision.

With this matter now resolved, Nero turned to the matter of completing the object of
their quest – the destruction of the sphere of annihilation. First however, he thought it best
to destroy the item that helped to control the sphere, the talisman of the sphere. This he did
by simply tossing the talisman into the sphere, which instantly consumed the talisman like
it did everything else. Then, without giving it much thought, Nero pulled out the rod of
cancellation that Telesaran had given to him, and touched it to the sphere. This however,
turned out to be a huge mistake. The instant the rod touched the sphere, a tremendous
explosion occurred, blasting everything and everyone within sixty feet of it with an
awesome display of power!

When the smoke finally cleared and those who were still able to looked around, they saw
that some of their companions now lay unconscious and were on the verge of dying, while
they themselves were critically injured and Nero’s familiar Raaze had been blown to tiny
bits. Fortunately, Alavarius had plenty of healing magic and was able to heal everyone up.
But there was nothing that could be done for Raaze. And as a result of losing his familiar,
Nero likewise suffered both physically and mentally and would not be the same until he
could find a familiar to replace her.

But despite the outcome, grim as it may have been, at least the quest was completed and
the band could return to their homes. Unfortunately, they were now presented with yet
another problem. Since Book was no longer with the band and Nero was currently reduced
in power, the band, at this point, had no ability to teleport. This meant a very long trek
through unfamiliar mountains and across vast distances beyond, which would require many
weeks, possibly months of travel before they could return to Greyhawk.

With this thought in mind, the band decided to spend the night in the tower, and in the
morning, stock up on provisions and set out on their long journey through the mountains.
So the following morning, on Godsday, the 18th day of Wealsun, the Righteous Vanguard
left the Sorcerer’s Tower. They did not make it far from the tower, however, before an
unexpected danger presented itself. Before setting out on this quest, they had been told
that a force of great evil was currently seeking the sphere of annihilation that lay within the
tower, and all through their exploration of the tower, and the dungeons that lay beneath,
they had kept this bit of knowledge in mind and were constantly on the lookout for signs
of this mysterious force of evil. Nowhere though, did they find any signs. But as they were
leaving the tower, it appeared that this source of great evil had now found them.
As before, the vale that surrounded the Sorcerer’s Tower was cloaked in a perpetual
cloud of fog and visibility was limited. Out of the mists appeared a figure, a dark silhouette
that intentionally moved across the path that the band was following. The figure called out
to them in a voice that rang familiar, though difficult to place.

“Once again it appears you have found it necessary to interfere with my plans,” the man
said. “Tell me, did you find the orb of darkness and if so, does it still exist?”
As the figure slowly approached, the band was able to see more clearly who came before
them. He was an olive-skinned Oeridian with long brown hair and a medium length beard,
dressed in black robes with a white pattern along the sleeve openings. He had a wild stare
in his eyes and a scar along the left side of his face and in his right hand he grasped a staff
made of bone which was wrapped in copper wire. Seeing this, it only took a moment
for the band to recognize Elock the Necromancer, who was one of the so-called Six
Necromancers that the band had battled in the Valley of the Mage about two months
before. In their final battle, only Elock and his cousin Tracy Windstrider had managed to
escape, while the other four members of the group were killed.

Despite this fact, the Righteous Vanguard, now seeing their old enemy standing before
them, was surprisingly nonchalant about the encounter, and displayed no obvious desire
to attack him. In fact, they answered his question, telling him that they had destroyed the
sphere of annihilation and that if he did not believe them, he was welcome to go and take a
look for himself. Elock then, perhaps confused by the unexpected civility towards him and
suspecting a trap of some kind, began to cast a spell. Only then did the band react with
aggression and Nero proved to be quicker. He blasted the necromancer with one of his
signature cones of force and much to everyone’s surprise, not only was the necromancer
thrown off his feet, but he was torn to pieces.

Amazed at how easily Elock was destroyed, the band was at first thrilled and relieved,
but then gradually suspected it was too easy. They then took a closer look and discovered
that Nero had not destroyed Elock, but rather an undead duplicate made to mimic the
necromancer. Moments later, they heard the eerie laughter of Elock which drifted to them
through the fog on a slight breeze from some distant and unknown location.

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