Lo, and then did the Great Hero liberate those who were turned stone by use of the blood of the beasts that lay at his feet, for his compassion was as great in his heart as his heroism, and this story would never be told lest the Hero of the Hundreds free its teller from granite clutches.
Then, after the beasts were slain and the people saved, did adventurers Leopold and Ben come unto the Raiders, and once again were the Rangers made whole.
And spake the wizard McRath, having so recently been freed, and said “Yea, and do I believe that the way forward shall be guarded by the amphipious ones.”
And mighty Xoshak spake saying, “Long have I known this, yet have I bode my time waiting for the appropriate time, and speak you too soon. Instead, do I believe the way shall be in the direction of my pointing, for there is a way to the north left unvanquished by my perilous blade.”
And therefore McRath remained silent, having been so mildly chastised by the great Xoshak.
Then proceedethed the Raiders into the cave, ever so more deeply, and came upon a portion of tunnel where the earth had been churned as though it were butter. And wise Xoshak spake, saying “Lo, I perceive that the mages and the priests among us are weary, having battled with such vigor. And so do I advise that we should rest, and recover, before proceeding.” And the raiders agreed with Xoshak, and followed him to a place of safety, and rested, taking each their shift in turn.
And during the night, the place of the churned earth did resound with the scratching of those that tunnel. But, though beneath the earth the beasts did stir, not a one did attack the Raiders, for woe unto him that set himself against the fierce Xoshak and his band.
Come the morn did Xoshak lead his band through the churned earth, and the beasts did not rise to challenge him, for all know the might of Xoshak and his band.
Past the churned earth did the Raiders find a room, its ceiling checkered and cracked as though stricken by a great maul, and the hum of the sturges did fill the room. And lo, sturges being weak of mind, did they fall upon the Raiders.
One did fall upon Isnot, who dodged with alacrity despite her heavy armor. Benjamin, Greanne, and Leopold were set upon mightily. One also attacked this chronicler, who was fortunate in the Grace of Xoshak. After the moment of surprise, then did the Raiders end the foul beasts, as mighty Xoshak had commanded them.
The Raiders did continue, until coming unto a room with a statue of a creature unknown to the Raiders, save Nyktan Warclaw, who spoke and named the thing Choker, but no statue caused mighty Xoshak to fear, and the Raiders did continue onward toward their sacred mission.
Next came the Raiders unto a room where the stones hung from the ceiling like great, sharp spikes. And on the wall, on either side, lay an entrance to a tunnel crosswise, and Nyktan the Skald, whose stories ring second only to my own, did climb to the tunnel, and there did see a gross of Chokers in the flesh.
“Ware!” shouted Nyktan, “For the statue which greeted us was but a warning, and within this cave are the Chokers themselves.” The beasts did move with great speed towards Nyktan, but being fleet of both foot and mind, and having been found worthy by peerless Xoshak himself, did Nyktan let loose his battle cry and draw forth his two-handed blade before the monsters could , moving alone into the fray, and did he lay about him mightily, countless strokes with the speed of lightning and the force of thunder, and the Chokers did cry in pain but did not fall.
The Chokers then set upon valiant Nyktan, reaching their tentacled limbs for his throat but finding purchase only on his body.
Benjamin, seeking to aid his companion, did throw a hook with rope attached. But as the Raiders prepared to come to their companion’s defense, did more Chokers come forth from the other cavern, and did those Chokers descend onto the Raiders. And Isnot did kill the first of many, but the others did come.
Xoshak then did shout loudly, his charge in danger, and did command young Benjamin to harden his stance. When Benjamin had done so, swift Xoshak did run to Benjamin, and did leap from his shoulders toward one of the great stone spikes, a full twenty-five feet above the floor, and did survey the scene within the cavern from his new great height.
“Lo!” said stalwart Xoshak, “Nyktan, hold and be hardy, for I shall assist ye in but a moment!”
And Nyktan heard the words of his leader and friend, and did take heart, though he was set upon mightily by the Chokers, and did call upon his magics to free himself from their grasp, but the Chokers remained adamant and came back onto Nyktan, wrapping their hands now about the thews of his neck and squeezing, that the very breath of life was taken from him.
Meanwhile Variel, seeing the mighty defense of Isnot, did work her magic upon the Orcish titan, causing her to grow to mighty proportions, and Isnot did strike heavily with her flail, laying into the horde of Chokers.
Now Xoshak did leap from his pillar of stone into the cave entrance, coming at last to the rescue of the choking Nyktan, and did strike into the Choker who had pinned down the woeful Nyktan, who, taking heart, did break free once again to taste the air of life.
And then did I, in my humble action, call forth my simple power, and did layer a stone pillar in the slick fat of the hog, causing a mere one of the Chokers to fall from the ceiling to his death.
Nyktan having broken free of his captor, did Xoshak then become the target of the Chokers, but Xoshak’s alacrity did prove more difficult for the beasts to grasp than that of his loyal friend. So did the Chokers fail to grasp swift Xoshak, leaving him free to strike again.
And Isnot, now in hugeness, did pursue the Chokers from the rear, who seeing her mighty form. But instead of climbing, Isnot used her greatness instead to lift Benjamin to the lip of the cave, that he may pursue the last of the vermin. And Greanne did work her healing upon wounded Nyktan, soothing him with the powers of her sacred faith.
Now Nyktan moved to safety and drew forth his bow of yew, making ready to pepper arrows to his formed attackers, and the Chokers struggled to place even a scratch on Xoshak.
And Mcrath, cowardly and timid, did loose a torrent of mist, that the Raiders were unable to see anything upon the ground, and did scream in his cowardice. And the reason for his desire to face mere frogs became clear, for thought Mighty Xoshak had thought him worthy, as he had faced before the basilisk which had so challenged the Raiders, Mcrath’s wretched miserliness of spirit became now apparent.
Even though Mcrath’s cowardice loosed confusion upon the Raiders, brave Xoshak’s blade flashed through the chokers, delivering only death to the beasts who had sought to take the breath of life from the Raiders. And then did the Raiders collect armor and weapons, left behind in the ages past, when the heroes of old did fall under the fingers of these beasts before Xoshak and his celebrated Raiders did free the world of this ever-looming danger.
Freshly girded, then did the Raiders set forth, ever deeper and deeper, that the world around them would be safe from the malice before them. But before the Raiders could continue, came they upon a tunnel too small for any but I to fit in, for as a Halfling I stood not as tall as the others. And came I upon a room with many sarcophagi, and great was the setting, and upon reporting back did the Raiders squeeze their way through the tunnel, removing armor and dragging their gear behind them.
Then onward pressed the Raiders, past the sarcophagi of old with all respect, and Isnot did fall through the floor, which dropped beneath her in dastardly trap, causing the Raiders to pass through a great pit in the floor.
Then came they to giant doors of brass, adorned in figures of celestials of old and bedecked on either side with rune-cased obelisks. But the tunnel in which the Raiders walked continued past these great Doors. And “Lo!” spake munificient Xoshak, “Should we return to these doors, for I believe that this tunnel shall emerge onto know territories, and I believe that we must press forward, that we find our path without need of crawling. And the Raiders saw that he was wise, and passed the door.
Another pit trap, this one deftly avoided by spry Xoshak, and did the tunnel connect back to known territory, which Xoshak had wisely predicted. So now came the Raiders to the doors, the great doors which before they had moved past.
Then Benjamin, holy follower of Muir, did commune with his Goddess, who saw the holy nature of the quest pursued by Benjamin and his great chieftain Xoshak, and did part the way before the Raiders, showing her love of their pursuit of duty and granting her blessing to the path they trod.
And then, in the room before them, lay more sarcophagi of a hero of yore. The walls spoke of a great teacher, Flail, and a knight, Bannor, both great heroes of Muir, those from who greath Xoshak had inherited her spirit and his will for valor. And there, on the bier beyond the sarcophagi, lay great Flail, his body ever-lit in the holiness of Muir and untouched by the ravages of time.
But only Benjamin and Nyktan, the Raiders who followed Muir, were allowed by the Goddess to pass into her holy shrine. They bore Xoshak’s good wishes for Flail and all his followers to his bier, and laid the respects of all the Raiders within.
So onward pressed the Raiders, into further parts unknown. Once again, skilled Xoshak brought forth his map and led the Raiders through the subterranean terrors. With the Raiders assembled in full, and with the support of the refugees, through burdened with craven McRath, Xoshak put forth that the assembled Raiders should assault the cultists of Orcus, for lo were the Raiders at their greatest strength, and to strike at the heart of evil was the greatest desire of the terrible Xoshak.
But, hark at the cowardice of the followers of Orcus, for knowind dread Xoshak hunted their very existence, a wall they had erected a full forty feet in thickness, sealing their temple off from the outside world and preventing Xoshak’s entry.
So onward the Raiders went, now through the waters deep. Through a tunnel submerged the Raiders swam, and came they to an area neverbefore seen by man in thousands of years. And in this cavern rested a foul lake of tepid water, filled with fungus, and behind the lake lay a glowing idol in the form of a corpulescent toad, the likes of which caught the interest of intrepid Xoshak and his band. The lake itself swam with frogs, darting throughout the rank, desecrated waters they called home.
Then descended the Raiders further, and upon their descent they were met by a thunderous sound, and Xoshak turned to his Raiders, then sayeth “Halt, friends! For I perceive that peril shall await any who should traverse these steps, and I fear that all of us should be in danger should we perceive. Allow me to venture forth alone, that I may absorb this punishment on behalf of ye all, for I would be loathe to see in inflicted upon you.”
So Xoshak walked forth, and into the depths did he proceed. And we was met with blasts of acid, and cold, and curses of evil, and taking the pain of these traps onto his body. For brave Xoshak’s body alone stood sacrifice for his people, and upon it was wrecked the wrath of a hundred such magical, foul traps.
At the end, he stood, and beckoned his party forth, saying “I have made the way safe for you, and beg you to follow, sheltered from the storm I have taken upon myself.” And his Raiders did follow, hearkening unto the selflessness and bravery of their leader and in awe of his staunchness.
And then did Isnot come upon a pit full of rats. Betham the Diviner wished a corpse, and Isnot did lay forth bait in the form of the mushroom of the cave-orcs, which caused a swarm of rats. Being merely pests, and not evil in their own right, noble Xoshak bid his Raiders to not bring death to the rats, but rather to byoass them in favor of more worthy enemies.
In a cavern of smooth, still water, a wad of slime in greenish color fell upon Isnot, burning her and sending her running. The Raiders responded, each in their own way. Some brought water, some brought grease, some cast their magics. Woefully, I realized that only fire should purge this foul substance from my friend, and then did I use a bag of fire built by alchemists using their ancient secrets, coating fair Isnot in flame, searing the slime and her flesh with it. The gracious orc did forgive me, for I had potentially saved her life, but warily did I step, for it is not without reason that the forerunners of my people have given great caution against the ignition of orcs who do not then die, as they are known to hold their grievances long and take vengeance great.
The next cavern held another pool, and by this pool massive three-toed prints caused the Raiders to ponder the nature of the creature they had only begun to hunt. For lo, did it become apparent to the Raiders that they pursued a Behir.
But before they could track the dire creature, the Raiders did come unto a room in which the great histories of the past were writ large upon the walls in a language most ancient. Then did they rest, for all chose to rest there and learn the secrets of yore.
Upon awaking, did bright Drythe summon his priestly magics and determine that the walls told of the Sorceror King Greymag, a king who ruled these lands some ten thousand years past. Upon trying to exit, the walls of Greymag’s tomb erupted with the wrapped corpses of old. Into battle the Raiders leapt, with mighty Isnot leading the charge, swinging about her with her great flail.
The mummies set upon the Raiders from all sides, spreading death and sickness. When the battle had cleared, Xoshak himself, along with brave Isnot, heroic Nyktan, Leopold, Greanna, and Betham had taken ill from the rot of the mummies themselves. The craven Mcrath fell prey to his fear and fell, shaking, in the battle, never to rise again. His like shall not be missed.
“Lo,” said Xoshak, after the battle had closed. “We are greatly victorious, and have smote our enemies a blow the likes has not been seen here in ten thousand years. But though our triumph be great, I see we have taken sore wounds upon ourselves. Even now can I feel the vile rot of the mummies within, clawing their way through my flesh. Though their physical form be crushed before us, the battle rageth on within. So let us fortify this position, and hold here, and protect holy Dryan and Cenarrah, that their great magics may purify us and keep us whole.” Said he little of the death of coward Mcrath, for the low man did no longer cross Xoshak’s mind. Respect had he only for those of strength and brotherhood, who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his companions.
Nyktan then was pricked of conscious, and did attempt to host a rememberance for timid Mcrath, and all the Raiders struggled to speak well of the dead, though consensus seemed that his cowardly end both remained fitting and of benefit to all.
And so did the Raiders fortify their position, and use their divine magics well to sustain the lives of their companions. Greane in particular fell ill, and had to be sustained by wand lest the rot take her before the more serious magic would be prepared.
However, the menaces within this subterranean lair were to not give the Raiders peace, and in the night, sensing their weakness, came upon them a great elemental of earth, and it cast exhaustion and fatigue in its wake. But while the Raiders did battle with the earthen monstrosity, and Leopold did stike the monstrosity, sending it crumbling, an unseen threat did lurk within their midst.
For Greymag himself, his evil buried long, had risen from the grave, and had hidden invisible with his foul magics. And lo, for he had committed his soul away from himself, and become an immortal lich, and now did he set upon the Raiders with the intent of finishing that which his mummy servants had begun.
My own magics ran weak, but were sufficient to coat the foul lich with a glittering powder, making him visible for Leopold’s brave charge. Nyktan charged force as well, and swung a mighty swing, laying about the lich hard with his sword before being brought low by the lich’s deadly touch.
Desperately did Ignot and Dryth, the cries of their companions sounding behind them, search both high and low for the phylactery of Greymag, that foul device which did power his unnatural unlife and enable his foul assault on the Raiders. But, as Xoshak himself fell prey the Sorceror-King’s touch, we found little in the tomb of ignoble Greymag but despair. Benjamin held, brave Benjamin, and did beat the lich back and away, giving time to the doomed efforts of the Raiders to find the power source of this evil. But even as Benjamin stood, the unholy magic of dread Greymag did wind its tendrils through his mind, causing him to perceive an enemy where stood a friend, and he did strike out at the Raiders.
Back, then, back charged Isnot, her flail held high. Grown she was, Verial’s power coursing through her muscle and bone. Back she charged, and in desperation she swung once, then again, her mighty flail crushing the Sorceror-Kings empowered corpse.
Greymag’s putrid hand did find her then, and all looked lost as Isnot began to tremble. But she held firm, her head high and eyes blazing, and did resist the touch of the unnatural lich as she swung one final flow, crushing his skull in and sending him to his rest.
“Lo!” shouted Dryth then “Behold, for it is not death that this evil hath wrought upon Xoshak and our companion-raiders, for their hearts do beat still, though they be near unto passing. Yea, do I perceive that they are but paralyzed, and that Zinara and I may perhaps revive them, given time. Oh Raiders, do I plead with me to hold against the powers of darkness which shall assault us here, e’en as we beseech the Gods themselves to cure mighty Xoshak.”
And then did the Raiders brace, and prepare, for though the body of wretched Greymag lay defeated, the phylactery which powered his terrible soul continued, and in no great time the Raiders knew he would return to wreak great vengeance on all who had opposed his foul will.