26 March 2006

Mindsgate: The Undead Tree

Drakkar, Kai, and the Hand spent the night under Weemag's protection and the following morning began to climb the knotted vine ropes to the next level. Here several of the young Sprayspawn men sat in a crudely contrived guard post, hiding behind a rubble barricade sheltered by a simple lean to. This 60 foot diameter chamber was a shambles, a twisted and broken mess of rubble and broken stone. The roof and upper walls were penetrated by sickly grey roots, thick with a purulent ooze the color of dried blood. The roots dripped pus like many wounded fingers, across the way an old staircase little more than ramp of gravel ascended into the mists above.
As the three surveyed the ruins before them, one of the barbarian youths, Hurth abd Jabba, asked if he could accompany them. Seeing his doughty spear and leathery sinews the party consented. As the Hand questioned Hurth, Kai spotted a familiar figure wending his way down the gravel ramp and cross the room. Kai rose to meet the figure and as he drew closer saw that it was the Hand, although stretched and pale. He stunk of rotting meat, overpowering the sick stench of the festering roots. He approached and thrust a tangled metal puzzle in Kai's hands and without a word, turned and walked away. Kai spent a moment examining the puzzle but was suddenly struck by gobbet of ichor from the roots above, she felt nauseous and weak but the feeling passed. Covering herself she hurried to the shattered steps as a burning grew in her right arm, which revealed itself to be a new tattoo of an ornate and twisted black sword. The Hand, Drakkar, and their new friend Hurth hurried to join her and with the Hands expertise they managed to scale the gravel slope.
They entered the open air upon a single great platform dominated by a massive, twisted, trunk of deadwood some 30 feet across. A metal stair in the side of the great trunk rose majestically and terribly into the mists some 100 feet above. Below the flat, metallic sea they had awoken too yesterday stretched into the smoky miasma. In the distance a gondola with great black wings vanished into the fog, a familiar profile riding along with a massive oarsman. All about obscured by the mist many leather wings flapped invisibly.
With the Hand in the lead the four began to ascend the stairs having to avoid many short and twisted protruding limbs. They climbed the stairs quickly and carefully until it twisted into a hollow bowl in the wood, the stair now spiraling in the center of the tree's dead heart. As they climbed they reached another fissure that opened again to the outside. As they neared the opening they saw long branches dipping from the crown high above, stirring in the breeze...but wait there was no wind in this hellish land. And with that the opening snapped shut plunging them into darkness.
The darkness was momentary until a weak light illuminated their prison, a smooth hollow in the wood with no conceivable entrance or exit. In the corner a thin man began to stir from a poisoned sleep. He said his name was Lucien and that he had been traveling with his wife, sister, and few companions down the tree. They had been trapped by the tree and one by one his companions had disappeared, lastly his wife and sister. He did not know for how long he had been trapped here or how long ago he had last seen his loved ones.
Kai began examining the wall for a way to escape and as she wished for something to stab or break the wall a blade of a uniform, flat black material appeared in her hand. With it she hacked mercilessly at the wall until it suddenly gave way, causing her to slip and lose the ebon sword which immediately vanished. At the same moment a vicious 4 foot bipedal scaled thing half dog, half bat leapt through gnawing on her neck and face. As the dracobold struck Lucien sprung forward receiving a vicious backhand claw as he tried to tear it from Kai's bleeding face. A short vicious struggle ensued where the Hand used his martial skills to wound the creature before Lucien destroyed it with mystical bolts of energy. The party collected two well crafted short swords and several pieces of gold. As the the Hand inspected the treasure he noticed that the ingots bore representations of Lucien, Kai and himself all stamped on the opposite side with the imperial seal of Mellas. The party widened the opening Kai had made only to find themselves in a similar chamber, the gnawed, liquifing remains of Lucien's wife and sister spread on the floor. Some ten feet above them a hollowed branch opened to the mists once more. The Hand secured hand and foot holds for all and then crept out the branch. The metal stair wound on twenty feet below and forty feet above. The party made careful progress back to the stair but as they did Kai slipped and fell falling past the Hand's grasp. As she did so a thin black rope extended from his hands but he was unable to brace himself and fell with her, stretching and twisting into a thin black cord. Hurth and Lucien grabbed the Hand as he painfully and horrifyingly extended to 50 feet of cord. His agony continued as Kai climbed back to the steps but he was then able to painfully return to his normal stature, if a bit taller.
The growing party continued up the stairs noticing now that the short twisted limbs were actually the distorted arms, legs, faces and bodies of the tree's victims. They followed the stait until it wrapped once more into a cleft in the dead tree. As they approached, Hurth solved the metal puzzle they had been given. As the puzzle changed into a solid iron key a disembodied voice spoke: I am the Unlord. Keep the key safe. Do not trust Daerrus. My servant Leatherbones will contact you again soon. The stairs climbed within a 20 foot wide by 40 foot fissure before again exiting the tree. Although fearful of being recaptured the doughty crew continued on and as they climbed the fissure, a terrible sound of splintering and moaning wood came from the cursed wormwood as a jagged wooden figure tore itself from the walls. Hurth and Lucien tried to placate the splinter beast but its vicious swings showed that reasoning was not possible. The Hand and Kai both struck the beast cutting chunks of dried wood from it's splintered hide, but it was Lucien and Drakkar's spells that finished the undead tree's avatar burning its cursed remains. Inside the splinter beast's remains the party found a dead warrior wearing a hauberk of well made chain mail, a green bastard sword with a human skull as the hilt and pommel, and a ring of 12 animals each eating the next. The blade and ring each emanated magic. Drakkar took the mail, Hurth the sword, while Lucien donned the ring to no effect. As Hurth took the skullblade he laughed in a deep voice unlike his own, "Freedom and battle once more!". Frightened the party told him to discard the blade which he did. As Kai tried to grab it shocked her and when the young barbarian tried to reclaim the blade it did the same to him saying. "I will not be discarded".
The blade called Splitter recalled having a proper name once as well as being alive once and fighting his enemies before falling before them but then again rising to fight foes once more. It wanted to be its wielder's right hand and mentor, facing their foes as its own. It would only communicate when spoken to directly, that is, face to face and wanted to be slung over the shoulder so it could see. Splitter valued bravery but demanded honorable treatment as a sentient ally not a magical tool.
On Kai's insight the new party members now checked themselves for new tattoos only to find that Drakkar had one on his left shoulder, Lucien one around his navel, and Hurth one on his right breast. When the Hand tried to read the glyphs woven in the design his eyes began to bleed but he was able to ascertain that they had something to do with the saga of a demon prince.
The party left the fissure and saw that the crown of the tree supported a new or continuation of the tower below. The stair spiraled ever tighter to a trap door. The Hand examined the trap door and deemed it safe so Hurth shouldered his way through closely followed by Lucien. The young barbarian found himself stepping into a dracobold encampment and one of the vile creatures eying him, "KRRKKT" and beckoning with its head. Hurth complied as did Lucien, but Drakkar ducked quickly back down the stairs. As he did a torrent of dracobolds sounding their hunting call came tearing through the hatch, bursting through to hang from the Undead Tree and the stone ceiling. The Hand tried to reason with the bipedal beasts in several languages as Drakkar and Kai tactically withdrew down the steps. Above Hurth and Lucien heard the beating of massive leathery wings as some great thing flew from the murky mists. Suddenly an avalanche of scaled muscle, teeth, and claws impacted with the stones behind them. They turned to see a great midnight dragon folding its wings. As they stammered obeisances it purred with a voice like doom, "Silence, I am Grimspyne."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

perhaps music shall tame the savage beast...