Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Seven: Vale of the Mage - Chapter 13

Late in the morning, on Moonday, the 3rd day of Flocktime, in the Common Year of 580, the Righteous Vanguard battled and defeated an iron golem that had suddenly emerged from behind a large tree and blocked the path before them. It was a tough fight due to the difficulty of harming the animated construct and because of the punishing blows it dealt out in return. Nevertheless, the group, with great persistence, was able to take it down and in the end, Nero managed to knock it into his portable hole. Although the iron golem was easier to defeat while it was in the hole, there may be some question as to whether or not it was worth the effort of putting it there – for Nero was badly wounded in the process and several things inside the portable hole were crushed beneath the great weight of the construct and ruined, including the head of the green dragon, much of Nero’s furniture and nearly all of the potions stored there. But at least, they all survived the battle and were able to continue on their way. However, Gildor was not able to heal all of the band’s injuries afterwards and some of the band members were forced to travel with serious wounds.

Fortunately, for the remainder of the day, they had no more encounters that caused them any difficulties. It was about midday when they arrived at the tree people village of Little Bissel which had a population of about sixty. Just as with the gnomes, the tree people had been told by the First Protector of the band’s possible arrival. So the band was met by a small patrol of the tree people just outside the village, and after some brief introductions was allowed to continue on its way with no further delays.

A short while later, the band came upon a lake and the stream that flowed into it from the mountains. Here they met a few of the tree people with a raft and talked them into ferrying them across the stream. Some time after that, the band arrived at the tree people village of Ebonwood.

Ebonwood was the main community of the tree people, home to about 250 inhabitants, and just as before, the people there were expecting the arrival of the band. They were met by another patrol that escorted them into the village and brought them before the Chieftain of the Tree People, a large man by the name of Zurt. Like the rest of his people, Zurt spoke a broken form of the Common tongue but offered the group what hospitality he could having already been told by the First Protector the nature of their business. Seeing that several members of the band were still hurt, he had a few of the village clerics heal them up. But the people of the village made it quite clear that they did not trust and had no love for those who dabbled in arcane magic, despite the fact that many of them were descendants of arcane spellcasters.

Zurt also offered food to the band and a place to stay for the night, though some members of the band chose to eat their own rations after seeing the kind of food they were offered. That evening, the tree people invited the band to join them as they gathered around a communal fire, shared their evening meal, told stories and listened to musicians playing their primitive instruments. They also passed around a strange alcoholic beverage that each of the band members felt obligated to sample for fear of offending the tree people had they not. They were told that it was a tradition for them to share in this drink before having to go off on a dangerous quest of any kind.

During the evening’s celebration Dravos attended to the business that had brought him to the Valley of the Mage. He spoke with the Chieftain Zurt and asked him about Broud, the man he had been searching for. Zurt said that Broud lived in the village and had him summoned. When Dravos then spoke to Broud, he gave him a signet ring that had belonged to his father who lived in the Bandit Kingdoms. Dravos told Broud about his father having recently passed away and that it was his father’s dying wish for Dravos to deliver the ring to Broud who had fled the Bandit Kingdoms some twenty years before. Having fulfilled this obligation, Dravos was now free to do as he wanted and decided to join up with the Righteous Vanguard on their quest to hunt down the Six Necromancers.

Ael, the valley elf, had likewise been extended an invitation to join up with the band. But as tempting as the thought was of leaving the valley and exploring the world beyond, Ael decided he had best hold off on such a venture for the time being until he could finish researching an alchemical extract on which he was on the verge of making an important breakthrough. So the following morning, Ael stayed behind while the band continued on.

The band, meanwhile, had spoken to Zurt about traveling up the stream to the Great Falls, and Zurt offered to have several of his men take them there in canoes. So the next morning, on Godsday, the 4th day of Flocktime, the Righteous Vanguard left the village of Ebonwood, along with a dozen warriors of the tree people, and paddled up stream to a small lake near the foothills of the mountains. At about midday they arrived at a spot on the northern shore of the lake approximately one mile from the falls where the tree people dropped them off. There the band scouted around and found an ideal location to set up a hidden campsite in the event that they would need to stay and rest for a time.

Nicholas then looked around and found a set of tracks that he believed to be those of Red Morgan and Tracy Windstrider as they scouted around the area several days before. From here, the group followed these tracks with Nicholas, Aejiri and Dravos scouting out ahead of the others. A short while later they came upon an ancient elven burial ground inside a small clearing in the forest. To the band’s horror and dismay, the burial ground had been disturbed and it was obvious that about twenty of the graves had been opened from the inside. This, of course, left little doubt that the skeletal remains of the grave’s inhabitants had been animated by the necromancers and were now more than likely serving them as guardians.

Leaving the burial grounds, the band found many more tracks, which not only included those of the animated skeletons, but those of the Six Necromancers as well. Now, more cautiously than ever, the band continued on and drew even closer to the Great Falls and the mountains that lay beyond.

Soon they could see through the trees a cliff wall that marked the edge of the foothills, and a number of cave openings in the cliff. Scouting ahead invisibly they spotted a group of skeletal guardians dressed in elven armor standing guard in front of one of the caves. So the band took note of the situation and the surrounding terrain and came up with a quick battle plan. When they felt they were ready to go, the band moved forward with most of them invisible in an attempt to catch them by surprise.

Unfortunately, the band’s plan did not go as they had hoped, as the skeletons begun charging towards them almost as soon as the group moved forward. Somehow, it appeared that the necromancers were aware of the band’s presence. So the band was forced to begin their attack before they had intended to. Nero, while flying high above invisibly, launched a fireball at the cave entrance, destroying many of the skeletons in the process. But some of the necromancers, who had already stepped outside the cave invisibly, were protected by a magical Globe of Invulnerability. The necromancers in turn began launching devastating spells of their own, such as numerous Spectral Hands and Vampiric Touch spells as well as other protective spells. Meanwhile, Kieranen, Gildor and Aejiri raced to the front to try and battle the necromancers in close combat and Nicholas stayed back and attacked with his bow.

Kieranen however, was stopped just short of the necromancer Elock, by Red Morgan, who suddenly appeared and began pummeling him with his devastatingly powerful staff. Had it not been for Kieranen’s invisibility, he might have been taken down in the first few seconds of the battle. So Kieranen, realizing the danger that Red Morgan posed, used his Crystal of the Eight and summoned a crushing hand that wrapped around Red and took him out of much of the fight. He and Gildor then concentrated on killing Red while they had the chance.

Things did not go quite as well however, for the Righteous Vanguard in other parts of the battle. Aejiri ran up to one of the skeletons, and when he struck it, it exploded. At the same time, Nicholas and Dravos were caught in a cloud of cold mist that slowly drained the life out of them. Then Nero, with another invisibility spell up, got too close to the necromancers and became the victim of Nyeru’s Spectral Hand and Vampiric Touch spells. The hand drained him to unconsciousness and forced him to land. But worst of all; Aejiri was attacked by Tracy moments later and killed with her magical sword.

Things were looking very grim at this point. But all was not lost just yet, as a number of unexpected allies for the Righteous Vanguard began to appear and turn the tide of the battle. The first of these was a wizard by the name of Arthur Finch. Under the cover of a Greater Invisibility spell and staying at a distance he began casting his spells.

The first of these was a Confusion spell, which had Elock momentarily confused and attacking his ally, Promiss, until the drow Albion was able to dispel it. Then he struck the necromancer’s leader, Nyeru, with a Feeblemind spell and then Albion with the same spell. At about the same time, the Black One himself appeared along with the First Protector. They too began casting spells that quickly swung the momentum of the battle in the favor of the Righteous Vanguard. The Black One also summoned an ice devil, which in turn blasted some of the necromancers with a Cone of Cold spell.

At this point, several of the necromancers, seeing that the Black One was now clearly opposing them, realized that their cause was lost and began looking for an escape. Elock then grabbed the hand of Tracy and teleported away. Promiss also tried to flee using a fly spell. But he was dropped out of the sky by a Dispel Magic spell from the First Protector and blasted with several other spells until he was killed.

Towards the end of the battle Red Morgan finally managed to break free of the Grasping Hand. Then he quickly destroyed it with the powerful blows from his staff. But rather than try to flee as his allies had done, he was determined to take down Kieranen. Fortunately for Kieranen though, the combined attacks of he and his companions managed to take Red down before he got the chance finish Kieranen off.

At that point, the brief but very deadly battle was over. The Black One then dismissed the ice devil and moved to address all those who were left standing.

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