Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Seven: Vale of the Mage - Chapter 9

At mid-day of Freeday, the 28th day of Planting in the Common Year of 580, the members of Righteous Vanguard had suddenly found themselves involved in a deadly battle against four members of the band now known as the Six Necromancers. The leader of the Six Necromancers, Nyeru Darkspring, had, just a short while before, tried to convince the Righteous Vanguard that he was the ruler of the Valley of the Mage, known as the Black One, among several titles. After listening to the Righteous Vanguard describe to him what they knew of the Six Necromancers, Nyeru invited the band to stay the night there in the Obsidian Citadel and left the room. A few minutes later he returned, along with eight troll skeletons engulfed in black flames and three of his companions.

Initially the battle was a very one-sided affair in favor of the necromancers. But due in large part to some devastating spells cast by Nero, and perhaps a flawed battle strategy by the necromancers, which apparently did not proceed as planned, the Righteous Vanguard was able to turn the tide of the battle in their favor. Then Aejiri used his Crystal of the Eight to create a cloud of steam that engulfed the necromancers. And while the steaming cloud almost certainly caused harm to the necromancers, as evidenced by their screams of pain, it also unfortunately, obscured them from sight.

A few of the troll skeletons were still up and attacking at that point. But Kieranen, after having received some much needed healing from Gildor, was quickly taking them down. Meanwhile, Nero had no intention of letting up on his heavy barrage on the enemy spellcasters and tried to warn his companions to remain clear of their vicinity. Unfortunately, Aejiri chose to ignore Nero’s warning and ran up to the edge of the steaming cloud that he had just created. Nero, nevertheless, hurled yet another force ball in the general area of the necromancers, despite the fact that Aejiri might be struck by it. Perhaps Nero believed Aejiri would be able to dodge out of harms way, as he so often did, and if he failed to, then it served Aejiri right for not listening to Nero. But as luck would have it, this was one of the few times that Aejiri would not be quick enough. As a result, Aejiri was blasted by the force ball and a few of his possessions were damaged. To make matters worse, it was unclear if any of the necromancers had been struck by the force ball, as no sound could be heard from them afterwards.

All they could do at that point was to wait for the steaming cloud to disperse. Gildor ran into the hallway and around to a door that opened towards the area where the steaming cloud was, hoping he might prevent any escape in that direction. The door, which was painted with swirling colors, was not locked or trapped, and he flew over the floor, thereby avoiding any traps that may have been placed there.

When he reached the wall that faced in the direction of the room where the steaming cloud was, he cast a passwall spell. Unfortunately, all this did was open up a space for the steam to pour into the room, and Gildor was forced to back away. Meanwhile, the others were able to destroy the last of the burning troll skeletons. After a minute or so, the steaming cloud finally cleared away. But when the band moved to inspect the room, it was obvious that the necromancers were long gone.

Shortly afterwards, one of the grivelings appeared before them and told them that they realized they had made a mistake. The grivelings had believed that Nyeru was the Black One, since they had never seen the Black One without a disguise. But it was clear to them that he was not the Black One when they attacked the Righteous Vanguard without any real provocation, something they believed the Black One would not have done despite the fact that the band had started to steal from him and would not leave when they were told to. For this, the grivelings apologized and accepted the fact that the Righteous Vanguard may have spoken the truth about the necromancers who sought after the Black One. As a way of making up for the misunderstanding, the grivelings offered what assistance they could, as long as it did not cause any harm to them or the Black One. They then told the band that the necromancers had managed to escape by magically transporting to the lower level, from which they fled through the front door, and were no longer inside the citadel. This they knew as they were able to watch from within the stone walls. The grivelings then agreed to alert the band should the necromancers return to the citadel, and even agreed to let them continue exploring about the citadel in an effort to find any clues as to the Black One’s whereabouts. In return, the Righteous Vanguard agreed to refrain from taking anything that did not belong to them, and to not cause any more harm to the citadel or the items within that was not absolutely necessary. The grivelings also advised the band against venturing up to the third floor, as they had been told it was heavily guarded and trapped. In fact, not even the grivelings were allowed to go there.

Taking all of this into consideration, the band then decided to resume their exploration of the citadel. But before doing so, Nero and Aejiri got into an argument over the incident that occurred at the end of the battle. Only days before, the band had spent an entire evening discussing the roles and strategies that each member of the band should adopt in order to perform more efficiently and effectively in any combat situation. Their goal was to try and function as a cohesive unit and to utilize each member’s strengths in the best way possible. But at this point, it was obvious there was still much to be worked on in this regard. The argument continued for some time. But eventually, with little if anything being resolved in the end, the band decided it was time they moved on and got something more accomplished.

The first room they looked at, where the steaming cloud had been just a short while before, was apparently an art studio for the Black One, whom by now the band realized was a talented artist in addition to being a powerful wizard.

Fortunately, some of the better paintings still there had been just outside of the area where the steaming cloud was and where the force balls had been hurled. Some the paintings however, had been badly damaged, as was much of the furniture in the lounge where the battle first broke out. But Nero was able to repair the majority of these things with mending spells, which he then spent some time doing. Several of these paintings depicted a boy, presumably the Black One himself, at various stages of life in the Great Kingdom and it was easy to recognize the pained expressions on the boy’s face and the great anger he felt towards many of his elders. Other paintings, apparently showed scenes within the valley, of places like a waterfall, a guard tower, a valley elf village, a rock garden and colorful birds. Two of the paintings however, which appeared to be unfinished, were portraits of a female drow, or dark elf, in somewhat alluring poses.

The next room they looked at was the room that Gildor had entered at the end of the battle. From the unusually bright and varied colors in the room as well as the furniture within, the band surmised that it was probably the bedroom of the gnome leader, Endoble Mistikmore, whenever he made his occasional visits to the citadel. As such, the band spent very little time examining it. The room next to it, which had two locks on the door that Aejiri managed to pick, was another bedroom. And judging from the way it was decorated, it appeared to be the occasional bedroom of the elf leader, Summerstorm Nightwind. This room they also did not investigate thoroughly.

The third and final room at the end of the hallway had a very complex lock on it, which the band had some difficulty in opening. It too was a bedroom furnished in a primitive elegance and smelled of jasmine. It was a very clean room but otherwise very plain. The only real decoration in it was a picture of a cloaked man, signed “The Exalted One”. Though the band was unsure who this room might belong to, they knew it could not have been the Black One’s. So again they left it relatively undisturbed.

The next room they came to appeared to be empty. So initially they left it alone. However, they later came back to re-examine it and discovered that it was full of furniture and had been made to appear empty with an illusion of some kind. The furniture and various other objects within the room appeared to be unremarkable though when a few of them were pulled from the room where they became visible.

Next to this room was a sort of dance hall where a harp and violin began to play when they opened the door. Fearing that the room was trapped, they chose not to examine it too closely. The only other rooms on this floor appeared to be laboratories. One had shelves full of glassware, lab equipment, and many containers full of various liquids, powders and other substances. Four vials they found here had magical liquids inside. And despite the fact that these vials might have proved useful to the band, they stuck with the agreement they had made with the grivelings and did not take them. The other lab room was vacant but had many burn marks, stains and even areas where things became silenced or invisible. Apparently, the Black One used this room to test various spells.

After having searched most of the second floor, they still had not found any stairs leading to the third floor. So the band asked the grivelings about this. The band felt that it might be important to investigate the third floor for a couple of reasons. Clearly, the Black One’s personal rooms were probably on that floor and it would be in those rooms where they would most likely learn any information of the Black One’s whereabouts. But just as importantly, they might also find information there that could tell them about the Black One’s history, his state of mind, and any plans he might have that would be of concern to anyone outside the Valley of the Mage. The band convinced the grivelings it was important for them to investigate the third floor, regardless of any dangers they might face. So the grivelings told them where they could locate a set of stairs leading to the third floor. However, the only way to reach these stairs was by way of a passwall, dimension door or similar spell, as there was no door leading to the stairwell.

So the band went to the area indicated by the grivelings where all but Gildor climbed into Nero’s portable hole. Gildor then used his ring of earth elemental command to meld into the stone of the wall and pass through it. The band then climbed out of the portable hole, entered the stairwell and headed up to the third floor. But they ran into trouble as soon as they got to the top of the stairs. There, waiting in the small room just above the stairs was a stone golem that came to life and attacked as soon as the group came into view. Worse than this however, was an invisible aerial servant that none of them saw until it was too late. After a brief battle, they managed to destroy the stone golem, but the aerial servant was too much for them, particularly Nero, who unfortunately became the focus of its attacks. By the time the rest of the band was able to get to the aerial servant and vanquish it, it had already beat Nero to death.

Naturally, the band was greatly dismayed by the death of their companion, as was Nero’s pseudo-dragon familiar, Raaze. And of course, no further attempt was made on this day to proceed any further into the third floor of the citadel. Instead, they brought Nero’s body back down to the first floor, where Gildor began making preparations to bring Nero back to life. Gildor had just recently become a powerful enough cleric to make this attempt. However, he lacked the 5,000 gold piece diamond required to cast the spell. Fortunately, one of the grivelings they then spoke to knew where to find such a diamond, and a deal was made to pay for the gem.

Gildor then used the Staff of Kitsyrral to cast the spell that brought Nero back from the dead. Unfortunately, Nero would not be fully recovered following this ordeal, and though Gildor could cast more spells to greatly aid in his recovery, he would not be able to cast the final spell necessary to bring Nero back to full health for another week. So with the spellcasters now almost completely drained of spells, the band decided it was time for them to rest.

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