I had just completed my devotional exercises to Nerull and was entering a meditative state when I felt his presence intrude upon my senses. I rose easily to my full fifteen-foot height, muscles toned and relaxed. “Master,” I bowed, “I am honored by your presence, how may I serve you?”
“Mortals have invaded our crypts, even now they break through the secret entrance to my throne. I will alert the others. The steelwing, the cauchemar and my children will engage them, we must reinforce them.”
I bowed again, “As you say, my lord.” And the Black Duke dissolved back into smoke, hurrying away into the deeper darkness of the immense crypt we call home. I could now see light from the direction of the master’s vault and hear the beginning of combat, metal ringing against metal and the sounds of powerful magic spells. I sheathed my morphing dagger, buckled on my mercurial greatsword and slung my greataxe across my shoulders. I was already wearing my rings and periapt of wisdom. I buckled on my bracers and grabbed my shield, easily stepping off my raised vault onto the floor of the larger crypt, 10’ below.
I hurried towards the increasing sounds of battle. My guardian souls swirling about my body, moaning and screeching in their eternal servitude, bound to me as they died by my hand in battle. I anticipate increasing their numbers anew with this approaching fight. Before I enter the circle of the mortal’s light, I can see the chaos of battle. The steelwing cries out and dips into the battle from her large nest above the Black Duke’s vault. The cauchemar has leapt her corral and is thundering towards the mortals, her hooves streaming flames. The Duke’s vampire children are charging attempting to drain energy with their touch.
A male human in robes with a staff is chanting and pointing to the vampires. Many fall to dust. A regal minotaur, almost as tall as I, squares off with the cauchemar, swinging a greataxe and impacting with the beast’s flank. The nightmare steed strikes the minotaur with her fiery hooves. He staggers under the impact but stays in the fight. A female human in robes chants and points and several more children vanish in a fireball. Two other robed females chant and point and lightning bolts rip across the air impacting the steelwing, throwing her into the crypt wall, stunning her.
As I leap forward to the vault, 10’ above the crypt floor, I attract the minotaur’s attention and we clash with battle axes. I take some wounds. Then two male humans, armored, jump to battle with me. This group is powerful, but I am strong. I feel powerful magic draining my strength, yet I fight on. Suddenly, I see the male who destroyed the vampires, turn to me chanting and pointing. I roar with laughter, as I feel renewed vigor flow into my veins, his negative energy spell has healed many of my wounds and now I trigger my frightful keening, as my bound souls moaning and screeching rises to a horrific volume and I direct their fear energy towards the mortal group.
Moments before, the battle was quickly deteriorating for us, yet an opportune healing by their unwitting cleric allowed me to turn the tide of battle. I watch the fear mount in these mortals as they start to flee the vault. Only one, an Elven female, a spellcaster, looks at me with vengeance in her eye. She starts to cast, but must feel she cannot face me alone. Her will is strong and my fear does not affect her. She turns and hurries from the vault as others arrive behind me. I can hear them battle The Red Widow’s zombies, who have joined the fray in the outer corridor between her vault and her husband’s, The Black Duke.
I survey the vault. The steelwing is dead; the cauchemar is gone; almost a score children of the night destroyed. I have been hurt, but I will heal and I will fight again. We await the return of The Black Duke.
An enormous metallic looking bird of prey drops from a large nest across the back of this stone vault, raised 10’ above a larger room that stretches as far as we can see in the darkness. We have entered a large underground dressed stone crypt from a stone corridor, through a secret door which slid open in a dead-end wall. A nightmare steed jumps a corral on the other side of the vault, charging towards us, trailing fire from its hooves. A soft, earthen center to the stone platform, erupts with wooden coffins and pale humanoid vampires rising from the coffins, moving swiftly to battle.
As we fought, out of the greater darkness charged a frightful sight. A charcoal gray skinned behemoth, fully 15’ tall, devoid of hair with a shining skull and large pointed ears. Over his head, he held an enormous greataxe, almost immediately engaging Shando, our Minotaur of Legend thief. That’s a story for another telling. Weysan began to chant and destroy vampires. Mai Quichi and Ruha, affectionately called “The Electric Company”, were doing what they do, lightning bolts sizzling across the battlefield and felling foes.
I knew the creature we faced was a Death Giant, a fearsome foe. Swirling about his body was a gray, smoky mass, looking like fog, unless you looked closely. Tormented faces peeked through the fog and an incessant murmuring surrounded the giant. These were the giant’s guardian souls, trapped at the moment of death within 15’ of the giant. I shuddered. This was one of the more formidable foes we have yet faced.
As the battle swirled around us, the giant joined the fray. Moments later, my companions began to panic and flee to the secret entrance. I felt the impact of the supernatural power, but I was not overcome. I was the only one. I glared at the death giant, knowing the source of their fear. He seemed to smile at me, reveling in his power. I started a spell and then thought better of it. I should run the rear guard, as I was not affected by the fear.
Back in the stone corridor below the gazebo, it took only moments to fell a few zombies and we were up the ladder and across the back lawn of the haunted mansion, running for the gate back to Fantasy Park. Kallera was on one knee by the stone property wall, bow drawn, awaiting everyone to pass, Edzo and El Dark, also comprising the security guard for the entire company to return from the crypt. They all fell back with me, Weysan waiting beside the gate in case anyone required immediate healing. I could smell the fresh salt tang in the air from the seacoast not far from the abandoned mansion we had found exiting the magic gate from Fantasy Park.
Weysan and I had traveled together since we graduated the Institute. “You resisted the fear.” he stated, not really a question. “The others have just passed through the gate, back to Fantasy Park, that was a tough one.”
“But it started out so boring,” I complained.
“Well, Malquatta, next time maybe you shouldn’t complain about a bunch of empty rooms with no adventure,” Weysan chuckled.
Moments later, we stepped through the planar gate and stood in the cavern in Fantasy Park, looking back at the four gates along the cavern wall marked, “Chills”, “Thrills”, “Spills” and “Kills”. We had just exited the one for “Kills”. “We’ll be back,” I muttered to the gate.
“No question”, Weysan said, beside me. “Let’s hit the hotel and relax in the casino.” We headed towards the Emerald Dragon Hotel and Casino across the midway through the center of the amusement park. Tonight we would rest. Tomorrow, possibly another adventure awaits.
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In such short stories there isn't a lot of room for epic world building, but you did a great job of making me able to see the battle. And then the twist ending was really cool. I'd been thinking that the battle sounded like a video game, so the ending was super appropriate to me.
Okay, so I don't normally enjoy this type of fantasy, but wow! Your story was enough to keep me interested and then Whammo (is that a word?) your ending !!! Superb! What a fantastic twist!