Stamus Contra Malum: 1013 YE

The Lost Vault Part 6

Juselen 16th 1014 YE (Midnite)

The Light Bringers (Active Members)

Ivanova Hastinov – Half-Elf Female, Black Swan Maiden (Paladin) of Fionnghuala, Heiress Presumptive to Leadership of the High Elves
Lozen the Lioness – Thracian Human Female, Blade Dancer of Ianna, Courtier of Ivanova’s Camarilla
Avery Aileanach -High Elf Male, Spell Blade, Ivanova’s Lord Marshall
Garrick Aileanach – High Elf Male, Night Blade, Ivanova’s Spy Master
Oberron the Reborn – Dwarf Male, Dwarven Fury, Son of Oberron Trollnose, Courtier of Ivanova’s Camarilla
Damien, Son of Ulf – Danish Human Male, Vagabond Paladin of Ammonar, God of the Sun
Moryna Morning Star – High Elf Female, Spell Blade, Scion of Morning Star Clan, Avery’s Henchwoman
Noelia Night Song – High Elf Female, Night Blade, Garrick’s Henchwoman and Lover
Robyn Spring Rain – High Elf Male, Man-at-Arms, Avery’s Henchman
Mock Wind Willow – High Elf Male, Cavalryman, Avery;s Henchman
Tycho the Terrible – Dwarven War Dog, Oberron’s Companion

Inactive or Former members
Vilhelmus Hastinov – Thracian Male, Fighter, Capt of the Lion’s Roar, Ivanova’s Cousin
Lukos – Thracian Male, Explorer
Atticus – Thracian Male, Bard, Deceased

The Realm of Souls, the Lands Between Life and Death

Juselen 16th 1014 YE (Midnite)

Oberron, Damien, Garrick, Ivanova and Lozen awoke to find themselves lying on their backs on a sandy surface and staring up into a starry twilight sky filled with three moons. The heroes quickly stood up and looked at each other. All of their wounds were healed and there was no sign of their injuries. Avery was nowhere to be seen and there was nothing but endless desert of pristine white sand around them.

What is this place? Why are there three moons? Who healed us? Where is Avery? Everyone began speaking at once except for Garrick who remained quiet and withdrawn.

Damien looked in a panic for a moment “The Elf Bane is gone!”

“It is probably still in the land of the living.” Garrick said forlornly and sighed deeply.

“Garrick, what do you mean?” Ivanova looked at the elf pointedly.

“I have been here before, this place exists outside of time and space, it is the land between life and death. It is a kind of a waystation, of sorts, for souls as they travel through the gate of death.”

“Are we dead?” Lozen said quizzically, for some reason she always imagined death would be tranquil and peaceful. Instead she was picking sand out of some very uncomfortable places. “Bel’s black teeth, this sand are irritating.”

“That is not sand Lozen,” Garrick leaned down and picked up a handful of the white gritty substance. “These are the bones of the dead, ground up and pulverized.” the bone sand trickled through his fingers like the sands of an hourglass “These are the days of our lives.”

“When did you come here?” asked Ivanova

“When I almost died during our romp through that forsaken temple, my soul came here.”

“How did you return to the land of the living?” Ivanova pressed him.

“Do you remember Priestess Genelen? Bless her old holy soul.”

Everyone nodded except for Damien, who had never met the old priestess from Türos Tem.

Garrick in a sardonic tone replied “She snapped my soul back into my body, real fun experience, don’t recommend it. I think the damn sword exists not only in the physical world but also here. Something must have happened and we got sucked in here.”

“Where is Avery and the sword? How do we get out of place?” said Oberron, he did not like this place, he could no longer smell earth or stone and this filled him with disquiet.

“Good Question Dwarf” Damien spoke for the first time in a while. Everyone looked at Garrick who shrugged his shoulders.

“I am not sure, but there is someone who does.”

Garrick got down on his knees and drew the sign of the eclipse in the bone sands. Reaching into his shirt he pulled out several necklaces, each one with a different holy symbol; he looked and selected one in the shape a raven. The elf closed his eyes and began praying in Classic Thracian to Calefa the Goddess of Mourning.

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Everyone stared at wonder at this as Garrick had never shown much reverence for the gods since they first meet him. Nothing happened at first, but out of nowhere a white raven landed in front of Garrick and cawed at him.

The bird hopped around for a moment on the sand, then flapping its wings, it took to the air. Garrick stood up and dusted himself off.

“The raven will show us the way”

The party followed the raven across the seemly endless wastes. Nothing but dune after dune of bone sands for miles. It seemed like they traveled for a long time, but they never got tired, hungry or thirsty. Eventually the raven began to caw again and they spotted something in the distant. As they got closer to it they could see it was a wagon.

The Gore Wagon

The wagon was massive with four wheels, each as tall as a man. The wagon was filled to bursting with body parts, blood and gore of hundreds of creature. A crimson trail of blood stretched for miles behind the wagon. As the wagon rolled across the sands, it would sway, splashing gallons of blood and ichor on the sands. Pulling the wagon was a naked elf, black iron hooks sunken into his back, arms and legs. Iron chains, taunt with strain, ran from the hooks to the wagon as the he struggled to pull the wagon. The elf was Avery and he seemed in agony.

Garrick screamed his brother’s name and ran to him, the party hot on his heels. Avery did not seem to hear his brother or acknowledge his friends presence. Lozen noticed on top of the wagon rode a figure shrouded in a tattered hooded grey cloak. Across the figures lap laid the Beast Bane.

The creature spoke in a deep hissing voice, “He can’t hear you, for as long as he is chained, he is my slave.”

“Give us back our friend or you will feel our wrath” Ivanova drew her sword. Damien, Lozen,
Oberron and Garrick followed suit.

The creature laughed “I will flay the skin from you bodies and upholster my wagon with it.”

The creature leapt from the wagon, flipping through the still air with unnatural grace. When it landed its hood fell back and revealed the creature looked like Avery. Its skin was translucent white revealing spidery black veins beneath its surface; its eyes were black. It was the spirit of the sword, a demon who had assumed Avery’s form.

The Demon of the Sword

The party did not hesitate and launched an attack on the creature. Damien ignited his sword and swung a mighty blow through the creature. The blade met almost no resistance and felt as if he had cut cloth. Small pieces of black filament clung to Damien’s blade before dissolving into smoke.

The demon jumped backwards over 20’ from the Dane’s flaming sword. Hissing in some abysmally language it swung its sword and unleashed a crescent wave of black fire. The wave cut through all of the heroes as if they were made from paper, but their hair and clothes did not catch fire; nor did they seem to take any physical damage. All of them felt somehow diminished, as small pieces of gray fiber sloughed off them, turning into white smoke.

As the rest of the party engaged the demon, Lozen sprinted over to Avery to free him. The hooks were sunken deep into his flesh as he strained to pull the wagon. The bladedancer drew her sword Death Drinker, speaking the words to awaken the sword. She then stuck down with such force she sliced through all of the chains in one blow.

The Demon screamed in rage but before he could act, Damien attempted to vault over him in order to strike a death blow to the demons head. Instead something strange happened, Damien leapt high into the air and landed with 300 yards away with such force he made a crater. Garrick desperate to save his brother unleashed his necromantic power and cast a spell.

The demon vaulted to the top of the wagon in a single bound and with a wave of its hand, more black chains erupted from the wagon. The chains whipped around attacking the party. Oberron was hooked in the neck by one and was dragged towards the wagon. Lozen attempted to leap to the top of the wagon, but ended up over shooting by several hundred yards. Ivanova grabbed Avery and dragged him out of reach of the hooks.

All around the wagon, green flamed will-o-wisps began to rise from the bone sands, the lost souls of those who had become trapped in the Soul Realm. These will-o-wisps streaked over and were absorbed into Garrick one after another. Garrick swelled in size as his muscle and bone began to expand. He ripped off his armor as he grew revealing cracks in his skin which were beginning to leak necromantic power. Garrick roared as he charged the wagon and the demon.

Damien having extracted himself from the bone sand saw he was far from the fighting.

How was he to get back? Jump? If he only had a horse!

With that thought, the sand began to swirl beneath his feet and he watched as a skeleton of a horse materialized out of the sand underneath him. The skeletal horse reared his head and soon muscle and skin formed over the skeleton. Damien soon found himself astride a nightmare who charged towards the fighting with the shocked Dane hanging on for dear life.

Garrick had reached the top of the wagon and tore into the Demon with his bare hand. Black filaments flew to the ground like snow as the demon screamed in agony. Lozen could hear the scream from a far and began running back to the battle.

“They are so far away. If I had the speed of a stallion or a cheetah.”

With that thought, Lozen found herself running so fast that the landscape blurred as she came hurtling back to the wagon. She was moving so fast she did not know how to slow down and crashed into the side of the wagon, rocking it. The demon was staggered causing him to miss striking Garrick with his sword. Then Damien was there flying over the wagon on the back of a nightmare and struck the demons head from his shoulders. The demon burst into hundreds of black filaments, then he was nothing but smoke.

The danger was not over; Garrick began to scream as all of the necromantic energy he had absorbed became too much for him to contain. His body began to swell as more energy leaked out of him. He finally exploded in a pillar of green fire which expanded to consume the wagon and everything around him, including all of the heroes.

The Gates of Death

Death, it was like floating in a dark warm see, there was nothing but peace and tranquility.

The Light Bringers drifted for what seemed forever when a speck of light appeared. The heroes were drawn towards this speck which turned out to be an island of bone sand floating in the darkness. Upon this island a massive gate stood. The great doors of the gate were made of massive bone of some ancient creature. This was the Gates of Death, those who died, passed through them to the afterlife.

The heroes stood at the gates; dwelling on how far they had come; how much they had failed to do. Avery seethed in angry; his vengeance would never be fulfilled. Garrick grieved for he too would never get to avenge their parents. Ivanova had failed to purge her sins and redeem her soul; an eternity of torment waited for her beyond those gates. Oberron and Lozen prepared themselves to be judged by Ianna. Damien was the most nonplussed, he spoke to his god often and had led a noble, albeit reckless life.

The gates began to open and the heroes took a step forward then stopped. Out of the gates walked a black cat. The cat stood in front of them, looking at them with a slightly bemused expression.

“When you guys wreck something, you don’t screw around.” The cat spoke with a feminine voice.

“Hello, Shadowcat, are you here to escort us to the other side?” Lozen asked the cat. The demigoddess of thieves shifted from a cat into that of women shrouded in a cloak of the night’s sky.

“Not today Lioness, your bodies still draws breath in the land of mortals. When Garrick exploded, your astral form, your souls, were briefly disconnected. Calefa has granted you mercy as your deaths were not a true death. You have vanquished the demon in the blade, a demon that had tainted the Soul Realm. This is no small feat, given that you almost lost your souls to the blade.”

“Now the time has come for you to return to the land of living, walk through my cloak and be returned.”

With a flourish her cloak opened and each hero passed through one by one.

Ivanova stopped before entering and turned to the demigoddess.

“It was nice to meet you again, if you could do me a favor?”

“Dmitry, Lemunda and Borris send you their love, now getting going girl, there is heroic tasks awaiting you”

Garrick was the last to enter the cloak when the Shadowcat stopped him.

“I have need of a private word with you, spy master,” Garrick gulped; this could not be a good thing.

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