It was just after saving Millie from her squalor and her ignorant neighbours when Dain, Catherine and “Lord” Ashenglow came rushing in. Dain was spouting something about dwarves who were dead but not and kings of bone. After a few moments we got the whole story. Apparently the Bone King, you know the vicious necromancer from back in the day, was rumoured to have a dwarf under his control. It seemed like a fool’s errand to me but the others were keen on it and I figured that they would be indebted to me so they would have to help with my own objective. Saying my farewells to Millie and Hubert we left for the Bone King’s tower.
The tower rose from the courtyard as a nightmarish iron blossom within a bare courtyard surrounded by a gothic iron fence. In front of the tower there was a squad of Templars camped outside of the tower, it didn’t look like we would be able to go through the front door. Catherine elected to scout around and after shifting into her rat form she slipped through the fence and towards to base of the tower. After some time had passed, and I had grown tired of Ash extoling his “virtues”, Catherine returned. She told us of a desiccated corpse telling her of an entrance in the basement, she had already scouted around in the sewers and found the entrance. Great. The sewers, just lovely.
Thankfully my dark-vision spell allowed me to avoid the worst of the muck down there and after some time of crawling around in near darkness we came to a pit which seemed impossibly deep. On the other side of the pit was a steel door. Catherine easily scampered around the ledge and with guidance from Ash she deftly picked the lock. So much for Ash’s virtues. With a shove she managed to open the door slightly and after shifting into her rat form she scampered in for a quick initial scout. After a few moments she pulled the door fully open and motioned for us to cross. Dain started to go around the ledge and then was at the door somehow. I really need to figure out how he does that, I have not once detected any form of magic when he has done it and when asked he has no knowledge of it occurring. Ash and I carefully made our way around to join them.
Catherine informed us that the desiccated corpse on the chair had told her that there were some unfettered up ahead and that they would try to kill us, as well as a warning about children. It was such an odd thing to say, what danger could mere children be? However knowing that there were enemies ahead we preceded with caution into the next room.
In front of us was a maze of stone shelves lined with skulls. As we entered the room the skulls upon the shelves turned to face us. As I examined the skulls Catherine shifted into her rat form and skittered up the shelves to get a better idea of the layout of the area. It was fascinating; apparently the skulls were being animated with necromantic energy manipulating the animus. I furiously made notes in my journal as Catherine returned. She informed us that there were two skeletal archers standing on the shelves further ahead. We proceeded with caution winding our way between the shelves, the skulls following our movements. Soon we came across a skeleton at ground level. Ash nodded to us as he knocked a bolt to his crossbow, took aim and fired.
The bolt flew across the room and slammed into the wall next to the skeleton, mundane weapons are so unreliable. Catherine ran at the skeleton shifting into her bear form and raked at the skeleton. The battle was joined. Arrows flew through the air, Dain fought off a skeleton that attempted to flank us while Ash missed time and again with his bolts. I dashed past him to assist Catherine, letting loose a sheet of flame which I weaved past her hitting a large skeleton and turning another to cinders. With another quick spell I retreated out of sight of the archers. Catherine let out a roar as her bear form was “killed” and the resulting shockwave crushed her opponent into the wall. Dain and I wiped up the remaining enemies while Ash loudly vaunted his skills as a fighter. Catching our breath we then continued further up the tower.
Soon we arrived at the main entrance room of the tower. The large steel doors were still closed so it appeared that the Templars had not entered as of yet. I wondered what was taking them so long; with their level of organisation they should have easily been able to breach the tower. In the center of the room there appeared to be a well, tattered tapestries wafted in a non-existent breeze, upon the walls next to iron cages containing inert skeletons and two sets of stairs led up to a second level where a spiral staircase was suspended in the center leading up further into the tower. Dain, Catherine and I went to the stairs while Ash looked into the well. His face blanched as we heard soft cooing sounds echoing up.
Noticing movement above I looked up and saw a swarm of horrifying undead babies crawling down the walls, these must be the children that we had been warned about. I turned to look at Ash as I readied a potent illusion to protect us. The fool was reaching into the well with an absolutely calm demeanor on his face. In a moment he was covered with undead babies. Amazingly they did not seem to be attacking him; maybe they felt a kinship with his demonic blood? Soon he had an entourage of undead babies surrounding him; it was such a bizarre sight. The babies’ friendliness towards Ash did not seem to convey to ourselves, they would hiss and show wicked fangs if they got near to us before returning their attentions to Ash. Speechless, and fearing that any distraction would raise the ire of the currently pacified children, we continued up into the tower.
Soon we came across a large door. Ash decided to be diplomatic and knocked upon the door, I think it was just a chance to show off his lordly airs he has “cultivated”. After waiting for a few moments the door opened and a skeleton with glowing violet light in hollow eye sockets looked out. Ash announced that we had come to see the Bone King. The skeleton just stared at Ash for a moment before nodding and turning away. Following the skeleton we entered into a circular hallway with antechambers leading from it, a sorrowful tune floated through the dead air. The skeleton turned into one of the antechambers went to a pedestal and gazed at the book upon it. After a quick glance it was revealed that it was a rather dry text about the philosophy of life. It seemed rather poetic in a sense. Catherine spotted a couple of desiccated undead lying together in the corner and asked where we could find the Bone King. After a few moments one of them pointed upwards.
We continued along the hall, glancing into chambers as we passed. In one chamber a congregation of undead were sitting staring ahead into space, violet necromantic energy arced between them seemingly connecting them on some deep spiritual level. I assumed that they were having some kind of shared experience connected to the Shadowlands. In another room we found the source of the haunting tune, three musicians played upon a stage in a slightly modified repetition of the same tune. After listening for a few moments I quickly memorised the tune for my repertoire. With a bit of practice I could easily convert it for play on the harp. Soon we found the stairs up and entered the chamber at the top of the tower.
Inside were a dozen undead sitting on chairs placed in a circle, however they were all facing different directions. Above us in the center of the room was a throne suspended by thick iron chains and upon the throne sat an extremely old man with glowing violet eyes. I could tell that he had infused his entire body with so much necromantic energy that it was at the point where his body no longer required sustenance to continue functioning as a normal persons would. He turned his gaze towards us and said in a whisper that filled the room,
“Who are these mortals that have intruded upon my domain?”
Ash bowed deep and introduced us, explaining that we had come to assist our friend and that the Templars were on his doorstep about to attack. The Bone King let out a rumbling laugh.
“What care I for them? They are but ants before my power.”
At this point I stepped in, describing how the Templars had grown in power and influence during the many years of his absence. I told him of the disappearances of those with magical ability at the hands of the Templars, how they were targeting anyone on the smallest excuse and that they were succeeding in their quest. The Bone King was silent, deep in thought. He indicated that Dain could talk to the undead dwarf Korrick while he considered the situation.
Korrick seemed to be much more animated than the other undead we had encountered within the tower. He told Dain of their ancestral home, Adelhiem, their retreat to the refuge of Neverhearth and how it could be accessed through entering the prison known as the pit. He had left Neverhearth as the dwarven society had become insular and more and more paranoid. He also told of whispers from the shadowland spirits describing the Adelhiem being host to madness and destruction. Is this the reason for Dain’s own mental state? I had always thought it was the result of the psychic assault he suffered from when we were kids.
There was a sudden magical pressure originating from the opposite wall, we turned and looked as the iron turned molten and fell to the floor. There stood the Templars upon a platform with an impressive artifice, however they wheeled it quickly away before I had the chance for a proper examination. They quickly replaced it with another of unfamiliar design. The Bone King let loose a powerful blast of necrotic energy at the artifice, the terrible blast hit an invisible barrier and the excess energy peeled off to one side hitting an onlooking urchin whose body immediately withered and he dropped dead to the ground.
“It’s time to go guys!” I called out.
We made our way to the stairs as the Templars lowered a ramp into the room and pushed the artifice forwards. Ash turned back to the Bone King. “Is there anything we can do for you, a message to pass onto anyone?”
The Bone King let loose another wave of necrotic energy which was also deflected by the approaching artifice, he looked at Ash and said,
The Templar commander shouted “Kill the undead! Capture the living!”
With that one of the Templars raised his crossbow and shot a bolt into Ash. He fell senseless to the floor as the tranquilizer took immediate effect.
“Dain, grab Ash and let’s go!”
The Bone King collapsed as the anti-magic field affected where he was, as the magic which had been sustaining him was negated. The undead in the room started attacking the Templars. Korrick with almost lifelike vigour jumped up and set to attacking the Templars shouting out quips.
“It’s been ages since I had a good brawl!” and “How are you going to kill what’s already dead boy?”
We fled down the stairs calling out warning to the other undead as we did so. They would buy us the time we needed to make our escape. As we entered the entrance tower the undead babies, they ones that hadn’t fallen from the ceiling and lay splattered on the floor anyway, mewled around lost and blind. We paid them no heed as we fled into the basement and back into the sewers.