—Red Eagle, Moran, Thorax and Thurtog awoke in the musty pit of bones, having slept restlessly upon the dank stone floor.
—Their wounds had been tended overnight, and they felt refreshed enough to face whatever challenge would arise next.
—Thorax donned his armour, and looked at it sadly. The acid from the ooze had melted it considerably, warping it so that its shape was nearly indistinguishable. His helm was particularly effected, and he stowed it under his arm rather than donning it.
—Moran decided to waste no time after waking up, and strode to the small terminal set into the alcove on the north wall. In his hand he held the iron bar he had retrieved from inside the black ooze.
—He twisted the bar into the small wall terminal, creating a lever from the two parts. He was about to yank it down before he was stopped by cautionary words from Red Eagle, warning that they did not know what dangers could lie ahead.
—Thorax agreed, saying that they must be on the ready for whatever could happen should the lever spring some sort of trap – or worse.
—Moran thought this over, and paused as the others readied their weapons as a precautionary measure.
—With that, Moran pulled the lever, and they heard a familiar twisting of gears. The pillar platform that had carried them down to the bottom of the atrium began to move.
—The entire thing twisted clockwise, and then the handle that they had twisted to move the pillar downward extended a second pair of handles, making four in total.
—The group stared at this new development, and decided to go and stand on the pillar once again.
—The four of them took a deep breath, and each one of them took hold of the handles.
—They turned the handles, pushing round and round. The small portion of the platform on which they stood began to sink downward, suspended by another set of four chains.
—As they sank, they emerged into a wide chasm, too dark to see very far ahead. The clinking of chains echoed around the rough stone walls.
—The platform sank further and further down until it landed on a bed of stone far below.
—The party members stepped off of the platform and onto an outcropping of rock on the southwestern side of the catacomb.
—As they stepped onto this outcropping, a bluish light erupted on the wall behind them as a torch lit on its own. On the far end of the chasm two more pinpricks of light emerged from the darkness, marking an area that seemed to be constructed of worked stone.
—The eerie blue light partially illuminated the room around them. The ceiling was dark, and extremely high up. Only the tips of stalactites were visible through the palpable gloom.
—A light mist hovered far down below the outcropping, clinging to a layer of water filling the lower level of the catacomb. Stalagmites could be seen poking out of the mist, which combined with the eighty-foot fall down to the water would mean certain death for anyone foolish enough to trip.
—Directly in front of the party was a rickety wooden bridge that led to another outcropping closer to the centre of the chamber.
—The group quickly surmised that they must get closer to the torches on the northern end of the room in order to progress any further. The entire place game them all a very foreboding feeling, as though they were on the edge of a great wave that was about to break.
—The four of them looked at the bridge with trepidation. Red Eagle elected to go first, stepping across with ease. He secured his grappling hook and rope to the post holding the bridge up, and threw the rope end to the other side for the others to use to bear their weight (rather than putting their weight on the bridge itself).
—Thurtog was next, and grasped the rope as he walked. On his third step onto the bridge, a plank beneath him broke, and he fell through the rungs, clutching to the rope as a safety line.
—Red Eagle pulled him up quickly, and dragged him the length of the rest of the bridge.
—Thurtog stood rather sheepishly, and waited for the others to come across as well.
—Moran stared at the rickety bridge, and mustered his strength. He leaped across the gap and deftly landed on the ledge, far from harm, still trailing a bluish light.
—Thurtog looked determinedly in another direction as Moran smugly turned his gaze toward the hobgoblin’s sour expression.
—Thorax decided to take a different approach to the bridge. Throwing caution to the wind, he got down on his haunches, and tore, full tilt toward it.
—He ran, his footfalls landing upon the wooden planks of the bridge. More than half his footfalls broke the wood beneath his stride, and by the time he had reached the other side, the bridge had been rendered unusable.
—Thorax looked back toward it before facing the party.
—Moran remarked that their exit had now been destroyed, to which Thorax stared determinedly forward.
—They looked toward the blue torches ahead a second time, still unable to quite see what lay beyond due to the distance. They could, however, see that a little ways beyond the torches was another pillar of rock on which to stand. They could just make out the platform’s edge in the flickering blue light.
—They decided that they needed to move toward that location, and assessed what was before them.
—Between the party and the torches were three small pillars of rock that could be reached with well-timed jumps. They could see that they would be able to make it all the way across if they were careful and acrobatic enough.
—Red Eagle decided to go first, but did not trust Thurtog to go on his own after the bridge incident. He scooped Thurtog up, and despite his protests leaped straight across to the first rock.
—He and Thurtog made it, keeping balanced.
—Moran was next, who jumped directly across to a different pillar which was somewhat further away than the first.
—Thorax followed Red Eagle and Thurtog, joining them on the small rock.
—Red Eagle and Thurtog attempted to jump to the unoccupied rock that was closest to the torches, but Thurtog slipped out of Red Eagle’s grip.
—Red Eagle immediately threw a hand down for Thurtog to grasp, but the two of them missed each other by inches.
—Thurtog plummeted down toward the rocks and the water. It seemed sure that he would be killed when the others heard a resounding “sploosh” that reverberated around the walls of the cavern.
—Apparently Thurtog had survived the fall, missing the rocks and landing safely in the water below.
—Red Eagle tossed him a rope, and he and Thorax pulled him back up, sputtering onto the rocks.
—He sheepishly said “thanks” to the two of them before the others proceeded, Moran chuckling nearby.
—Thorax ventured a leap to the rock closest to the torches, and Moran did the same so that they were all standing atop the same rock, overlooking the pair of torches and the pillar beyond.
—As soon as they all assembled on the rock, more torches lit up inside of what seemed to be a cylindrical, worked stone chamber set into the surrounding stone of the cavern.
—The two torches that had lit first marked the entrance to this chamber, which seemed open except for a ragged pillar of rock in its centre. There was about ten feet of space separating the pillar from the cylindrical walls around, meaning anyone who stepped idly could fall down to the rocks and water below.
—Atop the pillar was a set of stone steps, leading up to a raised platform. Atop this platform was a large stone throne. They could clearly see that the throne was not empty.
—A figure sat there, dark and shadowy, hands clasped over a massive mace. The figure was fully armoured from head to foot, and sat motionless as the party observed.
—All around the stepped platform were bones and partially decomposed corpses.
—The party members began discussing their next move. They knew they must reach the platform to progress, but they did not like the look of the thing sitting in the throne. Somehow it did not seem quite dead.
—Moran inspected it from his vantage point at the front of the stone they were standing on. He remarked that the thing sitting there was what was known as a Graveknight. He mentioned that this particular Graveknight had the markings of a Stormcaller leader named Valguar Nimbosa.
—As he described this to the others, they were startled to hear an unfamiliar voice.
—“Baron Valguar Nimbosa, in fact. The Warden of the Vault of the Tempest. Keeper of the imprisoned.”
—The figure sitting on the throne arose, standing imposingly at the top of his platform. The voice had come from within the Graveknight’s helm.
—The group froze, contemplating what to do next. Moran was the first to speak, enquiring as to why such an important Stormcaller wasn’t in a more elaborate tomb elsewhere.
—Nimbosa told them that he had requested this as his final resting place so that he could continue to guard something he had gained from the Orcs during the war.
—He then pulled a shining, white-bladed sword from his back, and held it aloft.
—He revealed it to be the Sword of Bothh, and sheathed it on his back once again.
—Nimbosa told them that he knew that they had come for it, else they would not have risked so much to get as far as they had.
—He told them that the Vault had been designed with protective measures should the Stormcallers fall to the Orcs. Nimbosa said that he had been entombed with the sword and had extended his life beyond death to continue keeping the blade from ever returning from Orcish hands.
—Moran remarked that they had gone through Nimbosa’s “little zoo” with little trouble, to which Nimbosa seemed to brighten. He told them that he had arranged for the keys that would lead to this chamber to be implanted in prisoners of the Vault.
—This meant that the prisoners would have to be killed or at least fought to secure the keys. When Moran pointed this out, Nimbosa chuckled saying that he was pleased that the remaining prisoners were dead, particularly since the hands of the Stormcallers were not bloodied in the process.
—He told them that Stormcallers were above such executions in the general sense, although he had no problem with ‘savages’ sorting them out.
—Moran loathed this skewed outlook and the group shared his disdain for Nimbosa’s perceived Stormcaller superiority.
—Nimbosa therefore got straight to the point. He told them that they had one final chance to leave, letting the sword remain entombed. He told them that he would defend the sword until he had been eradicated from existence.
—However, Nimbosa mentioned that he knew that they had no intention of backing down, being Orcs. He invited them to join him on the platform in order to finish them once and for all.
—The Red Eagle was first to respond. He scooped up Thurtog once again, and leaped mightily across the gap to the pillar ahead.
—However, as Red Eagle soared through the air, Nimbosa snapped his gauntleted fingers. At once, almost as if time were passing slowly before their eyes, Red Eagle saw one of the masses of bone and flesh coalesce into a large creature with a roughly humanoid shape.
—This mass of rotting muscle and sinew extended a huge, clawed arm, swinging over it’s head at it leaped toward Red Eagle and Thurtog.
—The clawed hand collided with Thurtog as Red Eagle found his footing on the edge of the Pillar.
—Thurtog was knocked clean out of red Eagle’s arms, and cascaded down toward the rocks below.
—This time there was no splash.
—Red Eagle cast his eyes down toward the water, and spotted Thurtog, impaled upon three stalagmites that jutted out of the earth.
—Enraged, Red Eagle turned toward Nimbosa, who spread his arms wide, extending his vile aura. Hi mace crackled with lightning as he faced down his foes.
—Red Eagle’s swords lit with flame, and he lunged forward. However, as he did, Nimbosa laughed, and raised his arms.
—At once, two skeletons soldiers rose from their resting places around the platform, as did an additional flesh creature. Before acting, Moran pointed out these hulking flesh beasts as Flesh Golems, remarking that they would be hard to harm with magic.
—The battle began with Thorax launching an arrow at the nearest Flesh Golem, striking it hard in the throat.
—This Flesh Golem, which stood very close to Red Eagle attempted to swing its claws down upon him. However, Red Eagle was too quick for the beast, and dodged out of the way of each strike with ease.
—Valguar Nimbosa the Graveknight raised a hand toward Red Eagle, and a bolt of electricity fired between his outstretched fingers before launching in a wide spread toward his enemies.
—Red Eagle was harmed by the blast, but stood strong against the current. The nearest Flesh Golem seemed invigorated by the lightning, and the bolt that had stuck into its neck was pushed free as its wound closed.
—Moran dove from the small stone toward the pillar. As he did, he moved straight past the Flesh Golem Red Eagle was engaged with, firing a few strikes at it as he went.
—The Golem was struck soundly by Moran’s blows, its bones cracking with the weight of his fists. However, it seemed to take little notice, and raised its fists for another strike.
—Red Eagle spun and cut down the nearest Stormcaller skeleton in one fell swoop. He then lunged at Nimbosa, his swords flashing.
—Nimbosa blocked two of the hits, but the other two struck true. Fire burned across his armour and he bellowed in anger.
—Nearby, the second Flesh Golem swung its arm at Moran, and then the other, clawing into him.
—The final skeletal soldier stood and fired an arrow that went wide, harming no one.
—Thorax fired another arrow which missed its target as well, clanking against the stone.
—The first Flesh Golem swung its arms in an attack at Moran again, and one of its claws struck, digging deep.
—Nimbosa took a few steps backward toward an open space on the platform. He then raised his hands saying “Let’s tip the scales.” The cylindrical walls slid closed on the south side of the chamber, locking them in.
—As they rolled together, Thorax took a mighty leap from the other side, landing just fast enough to avoid being crushed by the closing walls.
—However, that was not the only effect Nimbosa’s magic had upon their surroundings. The walls of the cylindrical chamber were lined with eight stone-carved giant heads, their mouths open above their sculpted beards.
—Water poured from these heads, threatening to fill the chamber with water.
—Nimbosa then kept his hand raised, firing another blast of electricity, this time towards Moran as well as red Eagle. The electricity arced toward them, but both were able to avoid the damage dealt by the blast.
—Moran spun out of the way of the lightning, and ran around the side of the throne to face Nimbosa head-on. Nimbosa laughed and taunted Moran into attacking him.
—Moran simply smiled, and rushed in for a strike. He skirted around Nimbosa, and attacked with a few blows. These strikes were unsuccessful, however, with Nimbosa blocking each one with ease. Nimbosa managed to strike at Moran as he passed by, hitting him hard with the strike of his mace.
—However, Moran manoeuvred himself around to Nimbosa’s back in the process, and thrust his arms out to grab the Sword of Bothh still lashed to his back.
—Moran yanked it free, the straps breaking.
—“No Orc shall ever hold the Sword of Bothh again, you said?” Moran chuckled as he brandished the sword.
—Nimbosa’s growl of fury could be heard beneath his helm as he threatened his life once again.
—“You have no idea the damage that can be wrought with that sword.” Nimbosa growled in warning. However, Moran wasn’t listening.
—With Nimbosa further away, and Moran closing in on the Graveknight, Red Eagle turned his attention on the Flesh Golem, mustering his strength. He threw his arms around the beast, attempting to force it toward the edge of the cliff.
—Try as it might, the flesh creature could not seem to break free of the Orc’s mighty grip.
—In one fell swoop, Red Eagle pushed the Golem off of the edge of the pillar, and it fell, impaled upon the rocks.
—The other Golem attempted another strike, this time at Thorax. Thorax was struck twice, and fell to his knees from the severe hits. It did not appear that Thorax could take many more of those strikes and live to talk about it.
—The second skeleton raced forward, challenging Moran. Moran evaded the sword strike with ease as he continued to face down Nimbosa.
—Thorax then lifted his spear to stab at the Flesh Golem. He struck hard twice, and the Golem was forced back a few steps.
—Meanwhile, Nimbosa took his mace and lifted it high. At once, electricity crackled through it, and he slammed it down into Moran, wounding him severely.
—However, Moran was ready. He punched hard at the mace that Nimbosa held, and watched as it bent under the weight of the strike. Then, with a bold move he thrust his hands into the chest of the Graveknight, twisting the metal away from its skeleton. A bluish-white light emanated from the hole he had left.
—Moran got an idea, staring into the strange, ghostly light. He turned his head and lifted the Sword of Bothh. “Red Eagle! The Sword!” he shouted, brandishing it high.
—Red Eagle spun around, and spotted Moran and Valguar Nimbosa across the pillar.
—His swords still sheathed, the red Eagle ran toward the stone throne, kicked off of it, and caught the sword in his hands as he twisted through the air.
—He landed in front of the Graveknight, and held the greatsword in both hands. With a cry of fury, Red Eagle swing the sword, cutting a huge gash through the front of Nimbosa’s armour.
—More light spilled from the wound, and Valguar staggered backwards.
—The last Flesh Golem attempted to strike at Thorax again, but missed, allowing Thorax the chance for another strike. He jabbed his spear into the creature, and pulled and tore at its guts. The Golem fell to the ground, the life drained from it.
—Nimbosa raised his mace for another strike. He swung it round, and it collided directly with Red Eagle. The lightning burst from it and into the Orc, wracking his body with spasms of pain.
—However, Moran was still close by. With a punch, he lifted Nimbosa’s guard away from his wounded chest. He then plunged his hands into the hole, and tore with all his might, rending the armour apart.
—Nimbosa let out a scream of rage and pain before he collapsed to the ground, finally defeated.
—The water pouring from the giant mouths ceased as soon as the final blow was struck, the water having just reached the edge of the platform.
—Moran proceeded to tear the creature’s armour to shreds as Red Eagle swung his sword one last time, killing the remaining skeleton in one strike.
—The battlefield cleared, Red Eagle held the Sword of Bothh aloft, the prize won.
—Moran discovered a few other items held by Nimbosa in the rubble of the armour he had just destroyed.
—First, he found a small red stone statue of an eagle, which he tossed to Red Eagle immediately. Red Eagle took it, and tossed it into the air. It transformed into a full-sized eagle, and flew over head a few laps before returning to its tiny figurine size, landing in Red Eagle’s palm.
—Looking further, Moran found a pair of wrapped leather shoes. He looked at his bare feet, and put them on, feeling the comfortable leather on his toes.
—As he slipped them on, he began hearing strange, faint whispers that were indistinct. It became clear that the others couldn’t hear these whispers, and so he dismissed them, wearily.
—The last item he found was a strange stone that looked vaguely like an eye.
—He held it in his palm for awhile, staring at it.
—Suddenly, the stone zipped from his palm and stuck direct into his forehead, burrowing itself in.
—Moran cried out, hands scrabbling at his forehead in fright.
—Then, the pain stopped, and he blinked – not two eyes, but with three. The stone had affixed itself to his forehead, and embedded itself there, a third eye, blue as the sea.
—He closed his normal eyes to test this new one, and what he saw made him jump backward.
—Standing in the gloom were ghostly apparitions. Two of them were indistinct, but one stood close by, and stepped lightly into view.
—The ghost of Thurtog stood there, grinning sheepishly still, looking directly at Moran.
—Evidently the eye and the shoes had something to do with summoning and communicating with the dead.
—In light of this, Thurtog said goodbye to Moran, and congratulated him for a job well done. He also told him to tell Red Eagle not to blame himself and that he forgave him for his death.
—Moran assured him that he would pass on the gist, and did so to a bewildered Red Eagle, who stood off to the side with Thorax.
—The two of them only saw Moran, talking to himself with his eyes closed.
—Thurtog then stepped away, revealing the General of the Hobgoblins they had bet before. The General proudly told Moran that they had again honourably defended the memory of the fallen. He seemed to lament the fact that with Thurtog dead, the relations with the Hobgoblins and Orcs would likely never come to fruition.
—Without saying much more, the two Hobgoblins disappeared into nothingness, revealing the third figure.
—Moran’s father stepped forward, a powerful-looking, wizened soldier covered in bones.
—He greeted Moran and expressed his pride for what he had done. Moran gruffly accepted, asking if his ancestors were proud of him as well. Moran’s father said that he still had much to do in order to gain their full approval.
—Moran was not sure what he meant, but his father told him he could not say much more – only that Moran must be careful, as he could face his biggest challenge yet.
—With that, he told Moran to work to his strength and continue upon the path he walked.
—He disappeared as well, and Moran opened his eyes to look at his confused companions.
—After explaining a little about what had happened, the three of them started looking for a way out of the chamber.
—Red Eagle stepped forward, and holding the sword in one hand told Thorax and Moran to uncover an exit of some sort. Strangely enough, Thorax and Moran felt compelled to obey his words, even calling him “master” without really thinking about it.
—They had heard of the powers of the Sword of Bothh, but were not aware of it working subconsciously.
—Moran rushed to Valguar’s throne on a hunch. He pulled open one of the armrests and revealed a switch that opened a portion of the wall on the north side of the cylindrical room.
—Water spilled out of it in a torrent, clearly showing that this was a way of draining the room once it was filled.
—They stared at the long tunnel of rock that led out of the chamber. Thorax and Moran asked Red Eagle what to do next.
—Red Eagle was nervous looking at the water. He seemed to want nothing more than to stay as far away from it as possible.
—However, Thorax and Moran knew that they had this only way to go to leave this place once and for all – the water had to flow somewhere, and likely led out of the Vault.
—Before Red Eagle could protest, Thorax swung Red Eagle’s grappling hook up to the top of the opening, and grabbed hold of him.
—The three jumped and swung on the rope in a high arc over the churning water-filled tunnel.
—The grappling hook gave way, and the three of them dropped into the water with a loud splash.
—They were buffeted and knocked against stones, shoved underwater, and nearly drowned before emerging suddenly into the brilliant sun outside.
—They found themselves falling over the edge of a massive waterfall that terminated far below in a watery basin.
—They plunged down deep into the crystal-clear water, finally free of the stifling vault…
The Sword of Bothh
A Watery Grave
—Red Eagle, Moran, Thorax and Thurtog awoke in the musty pit of bones, having slept restlessly upon the dank stone floor.