Keys of Binding, Part Four - Basilisk

Roarc cast a baleful eye over the advancing Dragonknight. “I have a bad feeling about this,” he muttered.

“So do I,” said Sophia. “You should put that back, Tector,” she told her former bodyguard. The big man remained silent.

“So, what now?” asked the sithe warrior.

“We should see if we can find more Keys, in the basilisk’s lair,” replied Storm enthusiastically.

“Why don’t we open the other pairs of metal doors?” suggested Tector, gesturing back down the corridor, toward the chamber where they had found the Bloodaxe.

“No!” exclaimed Storm. “Those doors are trapped with fireball spells!”

“But I can jump across!” replied Tector.

“No thanks,” replied Storm. “I don’t want to be blown up!”

Sophia interrupted the argument. “We should only do that if there is no other way into the Basilisk’s lair. We don’t want to head into trouble for no reason.”

Roarc looked around. “That may be one way in, but there is another that we already found. I can take you there. But be prepared, Mallaidh may have set a guardian.”

“Let’s go!” said Storm.

“Hold on!” said Tector. “I’m really badly wounded.”

“We should rest until we recover a bit more,” said Sophia.

Everyone agreed, and they headed back to the tiled room where they had taken refuge the previous night. Closing the doors, they set watches diligently, but the night passed uneventfully.

The following morning, they ate some bread and dried fruit from their packs, watching Roarc. The dark elf sat off to one side, sharpening his longsword, which they could not help but admire. The grip, pommel and crossguards were carved, in the shape of a dragon, from a single piece of stark white bone: crossguards in the shape of wings, arcing upward to protect the hand, the scaled neck forming the grip, and a pommel carved into the roaring head and jaws. The mithril blade was engraved with strange runes that glowed with a faint blue light.

Storm looked at the sithe warrior appraisingly. “Are you ok?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the dark elf lightly. “I used the power of my mask to heal my injuries, after our little skirmish with the spiders.”

Tector uttered a brief prayer, and called down the blessing of the Lord, filling the room with golden light which bathed and soothed their wounds.

Even after that blessing, the Templar was still feeling the effects of his ordeal the previous day, so he prayed once more and healed himself. Sophia joined him, drawing upon her power to cure his remaining wounds.

Storm looked at them each in turn. “Now that we are no longer injured, we should press on,” he said.

All agreed, and they walked back to the crossroads where they had fought Lahm Bas the previous day, before Roarc led them north, taking the direction Mallaidh and Lorcan had tried to flee.

After a short while they approached another crossroads. A humanoid figure stood sentinel there, turning to face them as their lights illuminated the passage and alerted it to their presence. They saw that it was a four-armed skeletal guardian, armed with four blades, which it clashed together menacingly as it advanced rapidly toward them.

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Sophia acted first, trying to distract the guardian with phantom images, but her enchantment seemed to have no effect. The skeleton surged forward, charging into Tector and Roarc, who led the line. Its blades whirled with astonishing speed, biting into both Tector and Roarc and putting them on the defensive.

Storm hammered the skeleton with a thunderbolt that smashed some of its ribs, before Tector invoked holy radiance on the blade of his greataxe (leaving the Bloodaxe strapped to his back) and cleaved his foe with a huge blow that seemed to disintegrate its bones as well as smash them.

Sophia hit the guardian with an arrow that smashed two more of its ribs, as its dancing blades slashed Tector once again. He and Roarc tried to press forward, but the skeleton’s blades whirled, and neither could find any way through its perfect defence. However, its blades were no proof against Storm’s magic, and his lighting orb struck home, sending sparks juddering through its bony frame.

Anticipating its next attack, Tector parried more effectively, while Storm unleashed another lightning orb, hitting the guardian’s skull. Its blades faltering, the skeleton stumbled backwards before crashing to the ground and smashing into a thousand bone fragments.

Both Tector and Roarc had been sliced by the guardian’s blades, but their armour had protected them from the worst of it. With neither being much more than scratched, they pressed on, Roarc leading them east.

As they advanced down the passageway, the fitful flight of Storm’s lightning orb seemed to ripple across a translucent barrier, barely visible but blocking their way completely.

Roarc stopped. “This is as far as we came,” he said.

As they examined the barrier, Tector walked a short way back down the passageway, finding and picking up a shard of broken flagstone from the floor. Storm suggested that Sophia try to dispel the enchantment, but as they talked the Dragonknight returned. He carefully pushed the stone into the shimmering barrier, finding barely any resistance, and it dropped from his fingers onto the flagstones on the other side. Pulling his hand back proved a little harder, and even though his gauntlets had barely brushed the barrier, he needed his prodigious strength to yank them back.

“I know what this is,” he exclaimed happily. “It’s a one-way barrier!” With that, he stepped through, beseeching the others to follow, which they did, a little reluctantly.

From the other side, the barrier seemed much more solid. Roarc touched, then patted it. “Like stone,” he muttered.

Storm suggested that Sophia try to dispel the barrier, to facilitate an easy escape if required, but they ultimately agreed that this was not the best plan, particularly as they did not know whether Sophia’s magic would completely eliminate the barrier or merely suppress it for a time.

Looking around, they found themselves at a T junction, entering a north-south passageway with further passages leading off to the east. At the southern end, they could just make out a small figure in the faint light.

Moving closer, they could see that it was a goblin, but one that had been turned to stone! It stood, facing back up the corridor toward them, one arm pulled back and poised to hurl something. Sophia was concerned that it might be their friend Rikavic, but saw to her relief that it was not. Examining the figure more closely, Storm noticed that it held a clear gem loosely in its stone fingers. He was unable to prise it out, but Tector had more success. Having seen one of these before, it took Storm merely a moment of contemplation to determine that this was a Flashbomb, a minor token often used by goblins to dazzle their enemies and allow an escape.

Suspecting that they might be entering a maze, the companions tied a rope to the goblin to help them retrace their steps. Moving on, they quickly established that their theory was correct. Passages branched out in various directions, sometimes turning back on themselves, sometimes connecting with others, and they cautiously advanced, choosing their path carefully.

As they rounded one corner, Tector suddenly felt a wave of magic sweep over him, and his limbs froze, rooting him to the spot. He was totally paralysed, unable even to speak. His companions looked around nervously, but saw no threat. They spent a long few minutes discussing what to do, with Sophia again being asked to try and dispel the enchantment. Fortunately, while they were still discussing their options, Tector was able to shrug off his paralysis and continue on.

Deeper into the maze, the group entered a long corridor heading east. Moving ahead, they saw the dark outlines of passages leading off to the north and south. Further down, they spied another figure. Approaching cautiously, they closed upon the silent form of a norse danagrim wearing heavy plate armour. His wild hair and beard had been petrified along with his flesh, and he still held his fine warhammer in his stony grasp.

“A danagrim!” grinned Tector. He looked at Roarc. “You said one of the Keys is with a danagrim.”

Storm moved forward, examining the warhammer, but it seemed clear that it was stuck fast in the danagrim’s hands. In doing so, he noticed a leather cord around the danagrim’s neck. Carefully drawing it up from beneath the platemail, a large iron key emerged, its square head matching one of the keyholes in the circular door of the Necromancer’s chamber!

Taking the key in his hand, Storm extended his senses, exploring the enchantments upon it. He felt strong transmutation and abjuration magic, and determined that, in addition to its role in opening the circular door, it had the power to conjure a shield of force that would spring into being once each day and help deflect a single attack against the bearer.

Thrilled to have located another of the Keys of Binding, the friends discussed what they should do next. After some debate, it was agreed that Storm would keep the Iron Key and that they would continue exploring in the hope of finding the final Key.

Pressing on, they turned a corner and came across a petrified elven ranger. She had been frozen in time with her left arm still holding her bow in firing position, while her right was reaching over her shoulder, toward the quiver of arrows on her back.

Storm quickly searched the ranger, while his companions kept watch. He sensed magic emanating from a pouch at her belt, and discovered a handful of blueberries, which he determined would have healing properties. Placing them in his own pouch, he checked the quiver on her back, and sensed that two of the arrows had enchantments upon them.
As Storm had been searching the elf, Tector thought he heard a faint scraping sound coming from around a nearby corner. Taking a step in that direction, he was suddenly confronted by the head of a vast snake which appeared around the corner with alarming speed!

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Reacting fastest, the Dragonknight ripped the Bloodaxe from the strapping on his back, feeling its rage pour through him once again. Although he was unable to control it, he did manage to direct it toward the basilisk, calling bitter cold from his armour onto the blade of the Bloodaxe before burying it deep into the snake’s flank with a brutal strike, opening a great gash from which green blood flowed profusely.

As Tector struck, the large yellow eyes of the basilisk seemed to shimmer, and the three friends all felt their limbs beginning to stiffen. Roarc was further away, taking lookout back the way they had come, and seemed unaffected. Sophia looked at the dark elf. “Run!” she cried.

“And leave a fair maid in distress?” smiled the warrior. “Not on my honour!”

The huge snake surged more than 20 feet into the corridor, its massive jaws clamping shut inches from Tector’s face. Seeing that more of its vast bulk lay out of sight around the corner, Roarc nocked and loosed a dark-fletched arrow which pierced the beast’s scales near one eye. The Dragonknight retaliated with the Lord’s blessing on his lips and radiance on the Bloodaxe’s dripping blade, tearing another great, bleeding rent in the side of the snake’s head.

Storm then executed a plan he had conceived for this very moment. He fired ice javelins at the basilisk, all three slamming into its head, before twisting the silver ring on his finger and teleporting around the corner into the corridor, where he expected to appear behind the basilisk. However, he had underestimated its enormous length, and appeared right next to it! Unfazed, he executed the final part of his plan, opening his mouth and unleashing his freezing breath, which coated the heaving flank of the massive snake with frost. Its body convulsed in response, thrashing from side to side and slamming Storm into the wall of the passage, winding him.

Back around the corner, Sophia employed her magic to force sleep upon the huge snake, but succeeded only in slowing its movements. She felt her limbs stiffening further, and as her legs seized up completely, and she lost all feeling below the waist, she realised that she was turning to stone! Storm and Tector managed to resist the terrible advance of the basilisk’s gaze, but their limbs remained stiff and slow.

The snake lunged again, this time biting Tector around his midriff with a mouth full of teeth the size of shortswords. They pierced the scales of his armour in multiple places, and he bellowed in pain as he slashed again with the Bloodaxe, opening another gash in the snake’s scales.

Roarc let fly another arrow, which took the basilisk in the jaw close to its huge mouth. Next to him, Sophia focused her sorcery on the magic that was coursing through her body, forcing it out and into the flagstones at her feet. To her relief, she could feel her legs again almost immediately, and she shuffled painfully away from the battle, around a corner and out of the basilisk’s sight.

On the other side of the battlefield, Storm called up the North Wind, which carried him safely behind the basilisk, before conjuring draconic lightning to swoop down on the huge snake, slamming into its back and sending sparks flashing across its scales.

Around the corner, its huge head reared back in pain, and its eyes shimmered once more. Tector began to lose the feeling in his legs, and was rooted to the spot! Sensing his weakness, basilisk struck at him again with blinding speed, crushing his shoulder and chest with a massive bite.

Behind him, Roarc stood resolute, nocking another arrow and letting fly. This time he struck his mark, the arrow sinking deep in the left eye of the basilisk, blinding it. As the huge snake thrashed in agony, Tector activated the magic of his Brooch of Mithras, feeling the strength of the bull flow through him as he buried the Bloodaxe deep in the basilisk’s skull.

The massive beast crashed to the flagstone floor, slick with its own green ichor, and thrashed around for a few moments before lying still.

Tector tried to control the rage flowing through him from his axe, but once again its will was too strong for him. Fortunately for his friends, and Roarc in particular who was standing just a few paces away from the big warrior, Tector still could not feel his legs and was unable to move. So he directed his rage at the still form of the basilisk, burying the Bloodaxe deep into its head once again.

Although the basilisk was dead, the magic affecting Tector continued to advance, and he felt his whole body beginning to stiffen. Fuelled by adrenaline and rage, he was able to force his arms to move, his lungs to suck in air and his heart to pump blood around his body. Fighting off the petrification, but still rooted to the spot, he bellowed, and hacked at the giant snake’s head repeatedly with his axe.

Lowering his bow and stepping back a few paces, Roarc called around the corner to Sophia. “You’re ok. It’s dead.”

She moved back into the main corridor and saw Tector hacking the snake to pieces in a rage. “He could get to us,” she said to Roarc. “We should back away from him.”

“That axe is bad news,” the dark elf replied. “He needs to get rid of it.”

Hearing Tector’s rage, Storm stayed put around the corner, and waited.

Looking on, Sophia watched as her friend finished hacking the basilisk’s head to pieces. He stopped, holding the Bloodaxe in both hands, shuddering from head to foot as he tried again to regain control of himself. He pushed aside the bellowing voice in his mind, and confronted it. “Shut up!” he commanded. “Get out of my head!”

He pushed harder, and the power of the raging voice fell away a little more. “Remember what my sorcerer friend told you,” the Templar reminded it. “You’ve had enough blood for today.”

The voice quieted, and Tector felt that he had finally won a battle of wills with it. He could still hear it ranting about death and destruction, but it was now little more than a whisper, and easily ignored. He strapped the Bloodaxe to his back, and let out a massive sigh.

Keys of Binding, Part Four - Basilisk

Albion Andrew_Brereton Andrew_Brereton