Last Time: Vrykerion, his lover Calowen, and two other paladins – Waeryn and Jolsin – were on a mission to Deatholme in the Ghostlands, but upon finding that the majority of the fortress had been abandoned, they were set to head home. But as they left, a strange smoke stack had manifested from the necropolis in the center of the dead city. After a short argument, they four paladins headed into the foul smelling depths to investigate…
The silence was broken as they reached the bottom by dry and crackled female voice coming from a room at the bottom of the last flight of stairs, “Imagine it, Dolcrim: The Master Dar’khan’s mind and soul, in such an unstoppable body!”
A second voice chimed in, this one low and grumbly but with a slight echo to it that made Vrykerion’s blood run cold, “I should hope so. Gandling wants the Ghostlands back in the Cult’s hands. These setbacks are growing too many in number, and this project of yours cost us nearly three legions of undead to construct.”
“Did they say Dar’kahn?” Jolsin asked.
“And who’s Gandling?” Waeryn muttered.
“Quiet. I’m going for a closer look,” Calowen uttered and she slowly started to step down the stairway. Step by step, her armor rattled gently. Step by step, it felt like Vrykerion’s heartbeat was slowing. As Calowen crept down the finally stair, Vrykerion remembers to inhale. She peeked around the edge of the doorway and gestured back to the rest of the group: THREE SCOURGE. TWO ‘MANCERS. ONE BIG.
Vrykerion tilted his head and mouthed back down to her, “How big?”
Calowen widened her eyes a bit and nodded slightly, mouthing back, “BIG.” She glanced back through the door for a moment and then looked back to gesture that the large one appeared to be unconscious.
Vrykerion nodded and turned back to Waeryn and Jolsin, “Here’s the plan. We’ll split up. You two take one of the necromancers and Cal and I will grab the other. Hopefully, whatever this big one is we hopefully won’t rouse it.” His team mates nodded and Vrykerion turned back to Calowen and lifted three fingers. Then he dropped one to two fingers, then to one.
As soon as the last finger dropped into a single balled up fist, Calowen leapt into the room and unleashed a judging blast of holy power at one of the necromancers. Vrykerion and the other two members of the team bolted down the stairs to quickly join her in the room. The necromancers were dressed in the garb of the Cult of the Damned, one a male human with glowing blue eyes and the other a forsaken woman. Behind them rested a massive figure, covered in a bloody sheet inscribed with necromantic runes.
Calowen and Vrykerion dashed towards the man, landing their shoulders against his chest and pushing him toward the wall. Meanwhile, Waeryn and Jolsin got on opposite sides of the forsaken woman and begun to swing their blades, one low and the other high, in a maneuver they called ‘the double duel trap’. The technique had proven excellent against mindless ghouls, but as their blades collided was a shielding sphere of dark magic, they quickly found themselves on the defensive. Dodging blasts and calling upon the light to cleanse the foul curses burning their flesh from under their armor.
The forsaken cackled, “You cannot stop us! The master stirs! THE MASTER COMES!”
“Silence! Your breath is worse than your plague,” Jolsin shouted as he drove directly toward the shielding spell, shattering its protective barrier and allowing Waeryn an opening to take his sword to the necromancer’s neck from behind, severing the spinal cord and causing her to drop to the floor, still screaming her zealous proclamations.
“Finish it, Jols.” Waeryn said.
“With pleasure. By the Holy Light, be purged!” A brilliant light burst forth from Jolsin’s hand, engulfing the downed necromancer. As the light faded, a burning pile of ash was all that remained.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Calowen and Vrykerion slammed the human into the wall next to the sleeping monstrosity. From beneath the sheet, a large hand fell out bearing several foot-long blade like claws. Calowen brought down her mace toward the man’s face, which he caught with his hand. She could hear the cracking of bones as it made impact causing her to wince for a moment, while the man only grinned at the sound. Vrykerion slashed at the man’s side and cut him deep, but no blood spilt forth.
“What are you?” Vrykerion asked.
The man gave him a toothy grin, “Someone you will regret meeting.” He then slammed his open hands into both Vrykerion and Calowen’s solar plexuses and threw them across the room.
As Vrykerion struggled to his feet, the man rushed over and clasped his hands around Calowen’s head. He began to squeeze, causing the helm to start to crack, “Imagine what will happen to your head once I break your shell.”
“I don’t think you’ll have a chance,” Vrykerion said as he stood. Taking his sword in hand, he began to wail away at the man’s back. Tearing through his robes and cutting deep into his back. As chunks of fleshy flew off, there was no blood. Instead there was viscous black ooze that just seemed to splatter out from the wounds.
The man laughed maniacally as Vrykerion hacked away at him bit by bit to the point of exposing the back of his rib cage. He continued his anguishing squeeze of Calowen’s head. The cracks grew larger in her helm, and as the pressure built up she began to scream.
Hearing her voice cry out in pain, Vrykerion gritted his teeth and balled up his fist. ‘No one hurts her. NO ONE.’ Vrykerion’s hand ignited with holy energy. It took the form of a hammer as he launched his first deep through the monster of a man’s shredded back, breaking through bone and flesh until he reached the man’s heart. Taking that organ into his hand, Vrykerion squeezed with everything he had until he felt it rupture and spilt the black tar out. The man, hands still wrapped around Calowen’s nearly shattered helmet, collapsed.
Vrykerion threw the body to the side and grabbed Calowen, “Are you okay?” She nodded slightly, her eyes barely able to stay open. Vrykerion’s eyes swelled with tears as he hugged her.
“Mission accomplished. Can we go back to the Sanctum now?” a winded Waeryn said, leaning up against the doorway with Jolsin. Vrykerion looked up at them, tears rolling down his cheeks and a massive grin on his face, and nodded.
Suddenly, Calowen’s grip on Vrykerion’s shoulder tightened, “Vry! MOVE!” She shoved him aside and onto the floor just in time for him to see a massive, grey, muscly arm covered in blades and spikes rip into Calown’s chest. It broke right through her ribs, the claws ripping right out the back of her armor and leaving a puddle of blood.
All eyes followed the arm back to its owner. It seemed that in all the commotion that the thing under the sheets had decided to get up after all. A gigantic abomination with four arms, each lined with claws and what appeared to be embedded swords and daggers. It’s twisted mouth cracked open, “BehOLD, thuh Neeew DAAR’KhAAAn! I AM reBOOOOORN!”