Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Court of Just Too Many Damn Bones

You can hardly blame me for going a little out of bounds.  Where I come from, there's a certain cautious respect accorded to wizards.   In this crew, the prevailing attitude seems to be that if you're not hauling around a big sword (or maul, or spear) you're not pulling your weight.  I see my dagger as a cutting implement and weapon of last resort, not a proxy for my manhood, so I ignore Korviss's snide suggestions that I "upgrade" to a bastard sword.

The Ritual of Exaggerated Contribution seemed like just the thing to shut them up for a while.  I'd keep doing my thing, smacking down the bad guys, and my allies would simply see it all more... emphatically.  What I didn't account for was the effect it would have on me:  in hindsight, the extra few gold in components to exclude myself from the spell would have been well worth the expense.

Under the influence of the ritual, I decided to tackle the Court of Bones alone.  Erawin and Paelis agreed to proceed to the Horned Hold to help with the main battle;  in hindsight, I can see the fogginess that pervaded all our decisions. After making my preparations, I walked to the stable to saddle up our tame dire wolf Nefertiti, eager for her extra speed and aggressiveness to help get the job done quickly. I was "hungry like the wolf", and sought like companionship.

We rode fast, to the limits of our light, back to the cisterns, and from there followed Gendar's directions to the Court of Bones.  The large double doors were locked, but the silver key I'd carried since our chance encounter with flying wights unlocked and opened it.

Walking the wolf carefully inside, I saw a medium-sized semi-octagonal throne chamber, with a raised platform at the further side.  Seated on one of the thrones was a shroud-wrapped minotaur of some kind.  Four pillars, embedded with sharp fragments of bone, flanked the chamber, and the floor in front of me was dominated by a huge inlaid picture of a horned cow or minotaur skull.  I could not immediately see any evidence of the crystal that Gendar sought.

Moving around the edge of the room, avoiding the symbolic skull, I was suddenly pierced by bone fragments reaching out from the pillar.  The wolf yelped and we stepped away, chastened;  there seemed to be no way through but across.  I attempted to jump Nefertiti over the symbol, too aware of the possibility of triggering something fell, but we came up short and our fears were realized.

Out of the piles of bones in the corners of the room, a pair of Minotaur skeletons arose, followed by another pair of blazing skeletons.  Worst of all, a spectre of some kind materialized briefly from the throned minotaur before fading dangerously from insubstantial to fully invisible.

Surrounded by five undead, I put up the best fight I could, but tactically I was way out of my depth.  With no way to funnel or control their movement, I couldn't use my large-area spells to best effect, and the blazing skeletons rebuffed my strongest fire-based attacks.  My best weapon turned out to be a spray of blinding color, the radiant light unusually effective against these undead.  Finally, in desperation, I called on magic far beyond my abilities, conjuring up a wall of fire to stop their progress, but even that terrible risk didn't yield victory.

Scrambling to put out my burning robes, I fell unconscious, but miraculously remained in the saddle.  Nefertiti saved herself and me by fleeing back to the cisterns, finding her way by instinct and smell in the dark caverns.  By the time I awoke, the ritual had worn off, and I was equally aware of excruciating pain and inexcusable folly.  I repaired my robes, patched up my burns as best I could, and limped back to town to apologise to Gendar and get directions to the Horned Hold.

I was very late to the party and much the worse for wear, yet Korviss seems to be under the impression that "we" triumphed at the Court of Bones.  I'm in no hurry to correct him.  I'm not sure what Erawin and Paelis think happened.  At this point, I'm satisfied that the confusion is over and nobody died, much.  All's well that ends well enough, and if you come out smelling of roses then so much the better.

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