Rage Around the Machine
In which the running battle was carried, and our heroes entered the Chapel of Undeath.
The Hall of Shadow, continued
“Come on then, you little bastards,” hissed Surina under her breath. She wasn’t able to shake the necromantic leadenness from her legs but she slowly backed up, defending against the two norkers and eyeing the angles as their brethren rushed up behind them.
A magic missile from Wjizzo shot past her shoulder, sending a norker tumbling back in a heap. Surina frowned and relaxed a moment, then drew her breath again and held it until…
“Burn!” she spat, and breathed a five-yard gout of fire that she swept across the norker, felling all but two of them in a chorus of guttural squeals.
Varris and Cram braved the uncanny pillars to perform a concerted assault on the nearer cultist as the other sidled away after their companions. Their blades bit deep without seeming to daunt the strange-featured cultist, until with a horrific transformation it grew claws and ripped its robes aside, heedlessly lacerating its own flesh as it did so. Then it literally burst out of its own skin to leap forward, a flayed monstrosity, throwing itself upon Varris.
The elf used all his ranger’s speed and instinct to escape the attack, sidestep, and spit the horror on his longsword, then turn it into the path of Cram’s descending fullblade. The barbarian cut its trunk in half and whirled, with just the moment he needed to achieve a guard against the pair of norkers pressing in upon him.
Elana, Borran, Denoa and Wjizzo, in reaching the room beyond, had escaped beyond the skeletal clutches of the pillars in the Hall of Shadow, but a norker had charged in upon Wjizzo, and the second monstrous cultist was close on its heels. Denoa took a step forward and laced black fire over the norker as Wjizzo stepped back, gained space, and performed the evocation to bring forth one of his fiery balls and roll it blazing forward into the norker.
Elana moved to a position before the next set of doors, taking aim with her longbow and shooting the norker down. Through the door she made out a husky voice issuing an order, and realized that they were about to have to fight on yet another front.
Surina finally shook off the chill in her limbs and neatly stepped back to shoot a blast of eldritch force point blank felling one of her norker assailants, and another arrow from Elana shortly arced over Varris’ head to drop the other one.
Cram and Varris rounded on the two remaining norker guards, even numbers meaning the fight was sure to be theirs. Denoa worked her power of shadow to haze the sight of the surviving cultist, denying it the chance to aim its dark undead magics at them, and Wjizzo drove his ball of fire in upon it.
Elana relinquished her bow, swept out her quarterstaff and rammed it through the ring-handles of the doors moments before they were rattled by someone on the other side.
Surina, Varris, Cram and Wjizzo’s ball did their deadly work on their remaining opponents. The norkers laid about them grimly with their axes and retaliated with their vicious fangs when struck, but were cut down in good order. And when the Wjizzo’s fire burnt the cultist to the point where the beast within ripped its burnt flesh aside there was no one within reach of its fearsome claws. A hail of magical attacks felled it before it could find a victim.
A norker popped its head around the furthest corner of the passage leading away, and promptly ducked back again.
“Intruders!” it yelled, and at an unhead command began to run back whence it had come.
Elana retrieved her quarterstaff and flung open the doors onto…
The Chamber of the Machine
The room proved to be a laboratory and workshop with alchemical equipment cluttered every surface, but dominated by a huge structure of tall glass cylinders in which bubbles rose through exotic liquids laced with minature lightning. A flesh-ripper cultist was hurrying back from issuing commands out of the far door to their right.
The intruder-heroes, bleeding from countless small wounds, followed Cram’s charge of rage into the chamber of the machine. Wjizzo saw the cultist’s goal to be another doorway on the left of the room, and when it broke stride to lance a bolt of darkness at Surina, he hit it with a wave of thunder to knock it back, buying time to position his fiery ball in the doorway and deny it passage.
“Death to the intruders!” shrieked the cultist. This was followed by a snarl from the norker following it in through the doorway, and a great clanking commotion of metal on stone from the space beyond.
The adventurers split left and right about the machine, throwing everything they had at the norker and especially the cultist, knowing that its transformation would make it a lethal danger if it closed with anyone. Denoa’s shadow magic unerringly deprived it of the sight to shoot its black ray a second time. It went down fast, shuddered by their concentrated fire, and the norker fled.
The metal noises proved to be a Bronze Warder on the rampage! But it had charged away in the opposite direction, passed between two pillars and struck a wall at full tilt. In seeking a new tack, it had careened into the pillars. The reason for its random antics came to light as Elana came around the machine and found its focus to be the Bronze Warder’s head, connected by wires to the great contraption. Wjizzo identified the lozenge shape of a command amulet suspended in the central vessel. Whatever the machine was for, a display suggested it would be complete in less than a day.
The eyes of the bronze bull’s head glared up at him, and it gave a bellow of defiance. Its body lurched about and performed another charge, bouncing with a shuddering impact off another pillar. All eyes were turned to the doorway when a norker with battleaxe raised high charged round the corner and into the room, another undead cultist and the wounded norker coming up behind. The battle was short-lived, all three being rapidly despatched.
“This door was where that first thing was heading!” declared Wjizzo.
Cram gave a wordless roar and bore down on it.
“Quickly,” cried Wjizzo to the others, “while Cram’s blood is up and I can maintain my flaming sphere!”
But the others, feeling their wounds where the raging barbarian did not, were in no shape to follow up. As the bronze bull’s head started bellowing, Cram vented his frustration on it, hacking the hollow metal asunder. A flare of white fire jetted from the vent, and the thing fell inert. There still came no sound of any reaction from beyond the door. They shut and barred the doors and took a few precious moments to regain their breath, bandage their wounds, and steel themselves for the final push.