The brain-dead quartet
Faehana woke with a start as his conscious mind graced him with its presence once more, his breaths ragged as he struggled in the clutches of the Ettin “Gods below!” he cursed as the creature continued to lumber on. As his analytical mind finally decided to return from its violence induced vacation, Faehana’s expression turned into a frown of curiosity as he swivelled his head wildly to look at where he was being taken. His eyes locked onto the towering cream cathedral, its masonry cracking as vines weaved their way through the supports and threatened to consume the entire sanctuary. “It’s a Church of Doors!” he remarked with excitement.
“Oi keep it quiets! I’s was sleepin’ before youse tried to skip the toll!” one of the heads hissed before looking back at its companion “Can I’s club it? It’s too louds It is”
“No’s! The miss asked for peoples who wouldn’ts pay the toll alive!” the second head rebutted.
“But it’s only be a soft clubbin’. Swears” the second replied.
“I’s knows you. You don’t soft-club” the first remarked, shaking its head.
“Wait, who’s this miss?” the sage interrupted confused and intrigued.
“Ohs she’s great. She’s gives us foods for youse” the second began, his voice cheery at the talking point.
“And she’s told us to keep our traps shut!” the first hissed in reply.
“What’s the Church of Doors?” inquired Kalwala from across the way.
“It’s an old religion that believed its churches could grant a worshipper access to the spiritual realm through its various doorways inside” Faehana succinctly explained as the Ettin’s dropped their catches at their feet and pounded on the door
“Don’t youse try to walk off on us. I’s got my eyes on youse!” the one head remarked as a small man stepped out from behind the towering wooden doors. “We’s found these two, tryin’ to skip the toll they’s was” the first head remarked as the second stared down at the Tiefling and elf. The man who stood before them, if you could call them a man was cloaked in a black robe, his spindly fingers grey and flaking. His breaths were laboured and the glint of blackened bone escaping the carefully wrapped cloak.
“The Mistress thanks you for your contribution, your portions are behind the church” the man carefully replied. To this, the Ettin’s expression changed into a great wide grin as they nudged the party members into the church before turning to walk off “We’s gets a free feed!” the Ettin was last heard excitedly exclaiming. Kalwala and Faehana were led into the dark atrium of the church of doors. At the front of the atrium stood a raised dais, metal cages hung from the roof, their occupants weak and decayed. Pulsing arcs of green energy danced across the roof from contraptions across the church’s roof. At the centre of the dais stood a person, their dark robes etched with patterns of dark rituals, carved down skulls tied across their robes as they immersed themselves in some form of text. It could be necromancy, can never be sure with the dark magics Faehana thought to himself before adding we’re going to need some sort of distraction to break out of this creature’s grip.
Ugaburk looked on as the giants began to stride away “This is it. Red Lady, Grandmaster of the Lanceboard. Grant me the strength and wisdom to execute this assault to your liking” he muttered to himself, a red horse piece in one hand as he finished the prayer. As he tucked the image of his goddess into a satchel he unhooked his shield from his back and onto his left arm he readied his greatsword and charged towards the church shield in front before coiling back and slamming the heel of his boot into the centre of the large doors. The doors exploded inward as the boot connected with reinforced wood and the War Cleric stepped in, all eyes snapping away from the Frankenstein contraptions towards his majestic entrance. Using the distraction created by Ugaburk’s entrance the Sage rose from the iron grip of the servant and spewed a fiery stream of electricity at his captor, the energy illuminating. At this, the servant simply laughed before a gauntleted forearm assaulted his skull. At this the magic-user spun around, their sharp features still partially obscured by the torn hood.
“Kill them!” they hissed, their voice deep and booming with dark energy. At this five skeletal monstrosities dropped from the roof, their soulless skulls snapping towards the party as if still with seeing eyes and rushed towards the trio. Instantly, Faehana dropped into a crouch and mustering as much magic as he could conjured a perfectly shaped and balanced firebolt before directing it towards the centre skeleton. The flames erupted as they connected with the monstrosity’s chest dissolving the magics that contained it and the bones that held it together instantly.
Behind him the casters servant lunged towards Ugaburk only to be simply brushed past by the Clerics shield before a colossal boot was plunged through the abominations skull, the wet crunch ceasing the resurrection spell as Ugaburk turned to face the skeleton to the left of the Atrium. Now free to move with another skeleton rapidly closing along the centre, Faehana rushed right his elven long blade arcing out of its scabbard in one fluid motion before immediately connecting with the blackened collar bone and slicing down through the skeletons chest cavity, the abomination collapsing into hundreds of bones as its companion who had gotten much further down the aisle spun on its heels to rush back.
With a fanged smile, Kalwala draped her thieves mask down over her horns to settle in front of her face, the mould of a skull as she drew her dagger and leapt at the centre skeleton, without the strength of a long sword or the raw power of a great sword she threw herself into a leaping kick, the ball of her foot connecting with the creature’s sternum before her blade found the creatures taught joint sockets with quick succession, the creature tumbling to its component parts as the muted crunch of bone echoed to her left as Ugaburk’s gauntleted fist was ploughed through the skeleton. As she looked on the destruction, a smirk arcing across her jaw, the roar of a firebolt careened across the atrium, its weakening energy connecting with the casters hood, tearing it away in panicked fury, the caster’s long, singeing luminous hair whipped around she looked back towards the Atrium, her sharp jaw curling into a furious snarl before a scream of pain snapped Kalwala out of her jubilation. A skeleton had rushed up behind Faehana and speared him with a bony knife-hand. In an act of fury, the sage gripped the skeleton’s neck and tossed the monster over his head, the undead’s elbow disengaging without even a pop before a clean move of the short sword cleaved through the skeleton, the bones immobilising instantly. With the situation handled Kalwala turned towards the dais and began sprinting towards the caster leaping pews, dagger poised for the lung as the witch spun on her heel and dashed out of the church.
“val’z haf oftculq dyijy haf, suztm!” the sage howled in infernal, Kalwala’s eyes widening as he threw fire bolt after fire bolt towards the cloaked caster, her heavy robes brushing off the relatively weak bolts as they connected. The Sage disappeared out a side door after the caster before returning moments later, slamming the door closed behind him as he did. His breath ragged and his eyes furious as violent wailing began against the door behind him.
“The Necromancing Witch just resurrected the entire the entire cemetery!” the sage reported before cursing some more.
“What are they doing?” Ugaburk inquired as he crushed the locking mechanism with ease.
“Mostly just running wildly at anything that moves near them”
“So, they aren’t surrounding the Church?”
“No” Faehana replied with a shake of his head.
“Well that does mean we’ll be able to leave the way we entered with ease”
“Well before we leave, I need to search this building for ritual notes that witch could’ve left in her rush,” he said with a bitter tone to his words.
“And we’ll need to see if we can secure further provisions to get these prisoners mobile again” Ugaburk mused.
“If you’re done preparing for the next great war m’lords could use some muscles getting those prisoners out of their cages” Kalwala paused for a moment “Actually ignore what I just said wizard, we all know you spend more magic than sense holding your academics corpse together and the cleric clearly overcompensates for basically your entire academy so just go on “thinking ahead” she finished as Ugaburk turned back towards the dais and began cutting the cages down from their roof mounts before crushing the bolts with his grasp.
Kalwala glanced around the church before her eyes settled on a cluster of foodstuffs wrapped and stacked concisely in a corner. She quickly ducked to it and snatching up one of the packages before rushing back to the first gibbet cage. Leaning into the cage she carefully waddled the limp man out of the cylindrical prison before resting him up against the side of the steel of the gibbet. She knelt before him, her eyes and hands moving to the wrap of food as the man’s eyes began to open, his shape was gaunt, with the sharp lines of malnutrition and fresh age, gone was the 20-year-old newlywed who’d settled in Baum Shire with half a lifetimes savings to break from the family tradition of baking to work as a blacksmith. Making an effort to hide her fangs, Kalwala broke a portion of cured meat and patiently fed it to the man “Are you Ailwin, husband of Sabelina?” she inquired softly, he nodded slowly as he chewed. “Your wife sent us to find you” she continued, at this, the man’s eyes began to water, his breath spluttered between tears and food at the thought of his wife “We’ll get you out of this,” she said with a soft smile before lifting back up to her full height and moving to the next gibbet cage. As she worked her way across, the sage called out as he rummaged through the various papers and piles at the back of the dais “That witch had so much research!” he exclaimed in an excited tone.
“Isn’t that a bad thing?” Kalwala inquired back.
“Of course!” he continued. Kalwala suppressed a sigh.
“Then why are you so excited?!”
“Because this will gives us an up to date image of what Necromancer scum are doing and how they’re resurrecting the dead” he paused as he began to stuff the materials into his pack “When some of my senior professors get their hands on this material they will have direct access to the enemies source material for the first time in centuries!” Kalwala frown deepened at that remark.
“Isn’t that just as bad that your professors get access to this knowledge?” Kalwala asked. Faehana threw himself from his bag, his eyes raging with righteous fury.
“How dare you suggest such a thing!” he said louder than any expected “Practicing Academics, especially ones as prodigious as the Professors as Cliffton are expected to hold to their Wizards Oath to the highest degree! Gods above they rained Baator on us for even simple casting that violated our code of conduct!” he screamed indignantly. At that Kalwala raised her hands apologetically and returned to her task of helping the peasants. With their papers collected and the captives relatively renewed of strength the party prepared to leave the Church of Doors, Ugaburk, greatsword in hand made a move for the main doorway, leaning out he noticed the Ettins hadn’t returned to their Bridgeway, asleep after gorging themselves on food and the skeletons that’d appeared in the church cemetery still hadn’t seen the wisdom in leaving their immediate area so with a wave of his left hand the party left the Church of Doors and made their way back to Baum Shire. Without the Ettins the trip was relatively trouble-free, but something had changed, gone was the lush green countryside and the beautiful midday sun had been replaced by dark foreboding clouds that seemed to gravitate around the Church of Doors, the grass and wildlife seemed to shrink unnaturally as if reacting to what’d transpired just moments ago.