Slow, Inevitable Death

Pulling the single blanket she hadn’t spared for her new house guests over her, Lorenna the Black wriggled into the familiar impression left on her old bed. Countless nights had been spent curled in the very same position, her old bones creaking more and more as the years had gone on. Now, nearly six hundred (though she didn’t look a day over a hundred and fifty) she knew that there was a chance with each passing night of not waking to see the suns rays again. She knew that fate was slowly, but assuredly, catching up with her; she could feel it. As she grumbled, irritated that another day had gone by in which she didn’t re-stuff her pillow, she tried to pound the tough spot out with the side of her head all the while the other five in the room slowly started to nod off to sleep.

The eXtraordinares were weary. The twenty miles of hard terrain which was covered over the last day seemed a hundred times more difficult; the cursed weather and ever present threat of lurking evil adding to the exhaustion of their taxing journey. Slowly, each and every tired adventurer within Lorenna’s cottage faded into the realm of restful dreams and soothing rest. The peacefulness of the sleep was only tainted by the incessant snoring of the elderly witch; her large crooked nose serving to amplify the cacophony of her own sleep.

Outside, a hundred yards away from the cottage stood a shadow; for the past year this shadow had searched and hunted for the adventurers inside the cottage. The shadow followed every faint clue of their whereabouts, searching high and low in nearly every plane of existence. The shadow hunter had finally found his quarry and was amazed that they didn’t even bother posting guard out front of the cottage, “Strange” he thought. Valistraz Nefarion knew that the five within the cottage were very capable foes, they had bested him once before, and he wasn’t going to take any chances. “Come Vi’nni your master wants something of you…” his icy cold voice cutting through the air as he reached into a small belt pouch. Valistraz grabbed a small statuette of a goblin-like creature and threw it into the air. Like it had done so hundreds of times before, it hung for a moment and as it started to fall the statue burst into a ball of gray smoke. In the tiny stone figures stead was the hovering form of a small homunculus. The creatures eyes immediately averted their gaze from Valistraz, Vi’nni knew the pain looking upon his master could bring.

Shivering in the cold rain the naked homunculus quickly stuttered out, “Wha-a-t ca-a-a-an I do for yo-u-u, Ma-as-ter?”. Valistraz, not tearing his gaze from the witches cottage in the clearing ahead, issued a simple command which Vi’nni knew he could not fail at completing.

In a blink, Vi’nni was gone from the cold rain and he now stood as light as a feather on the headboard of Lorenna’s bed. The homunculus looked around feverishly to ensure that his transposition hadn’t roused any of the sleeping warriors, or worse, the black witch; satisfied that he had found a way through a crack in the magical defenses of the old hag he started to waggle his fingers in the air. Seconds later his heart nearly burst out of his chest; Lorenna snored so loudly an ogre war chief would have been proud. After he regained his composure, he began casting the spell again. A dark fog began to pour out of his hands, which were now held over the Lorenna as if he was dripping water over her. After a minute Lorenna was completely bathed in the darkness the small creature had created. Vi’nni grinned wide, a twisted grin of broken and jagged teeth, his master would be proud. He wiggled his fingers once more and waited to see how happy he had made his master. Long seconds of waiting turned into minutes as Vi’nni stood waiting over the hag, his spell of shrouding most assuredly guaranteeing Valistraz an uninterrupted approach. All Vi’nni could hear was the now dulled sound of the great witch and the rain pounding relentlessly on the roof ahead, he was so happy to be out of the rain.

The shadow moved slowly towards the cottage slicing through the rain as if protected from it’s harsh assault. He reached the creaky old steps of the witches cottage and ascended as silently as a hunting cat. At the top of the stairs he paused to peek into the small window to the side of the door. It was too foggy to see through with normal vision; however, the dark elf’s eyes were attuned to the infrared spectrum and he could clearly see the heaving chests of two dwarfs, a vile eladrin, and two tieflings. He made note that the half elf was missing. He would attend to the halfbreed soon enough. Valistraz also noted his companion Vi’nni standing over the threat which made the drow happy he had such allies as the homunculus. Valistraz hated magic; he also respected it’s might over even the sharpest blade. The great assassin was confident that Vi’nni had done what he told to do. The witches alarms and defenses would be useless while under the shroud of darkness. Valistraz looked back to the treeline where he had come from seconds ago and nodded to a shadow the size of a bull. The eight legged creature stepped out from the cover of the trees and made it’s way towards the cottage. Valistraz smiled a wicked smile and silently pressed the door to the cottage open with his shoulder, his hands resting on the hilts of his two blades.

Lorenna felt uneasy in her slumber. Her dreams had gone dull and dark suddenly, immediately she knew something to be amiss. She rolled over, feigning restlessness, while checking for her wand at her side. Many creatures had tried to wrong the witch in the past; however, she thought to herself, none had ever lived to tell of it. She felt a presence in the room. Maybe it was he imagination playing tricks on her, maybe it was the rare treat of house guests. “Foolish old woman” she thought to herself. “You have spent hundreds of years securing this ramshackle fortress, nothing could ever sneak past your ever vigilant magical sentinels”. She released her grip on the wand as she fought to get back to sleep, dismissing her concerns. Seconds later she thought she heard the door click, had something come in? She opened her eyes with just enough time to lock with the flaming red orbs of Valistraz Nefarion.

Silently, the assassin plunged his short sword into the neck of the hag. He pressed his finger over her lips as he watched the horror in her eyes turn into dull emptiness. “Shhhh….” he cooly whispered to her as all the last bit of life faded from the old witch. Behind him, he heard a stirring from the nearest bedroll. “The game has begun” he thought.

Bluto Bronzebottom opened his eyes to see a shadow standing over his kind host. Bluto saw the glimmer of a sword pressed into the neck of the defenseless witch. “Noooo!” he shouted as he sprang from his spot on the floor, instinct taking over as he grabbed his axes and charged forward towards the dark blur.

His duty done, the grinning homunculus disappeared in a flash of gray smoke at the sound of impending conflict. Battle was not home for Vi’nni.

Bluto’s axes cut in a crisscrossing arc at the head of the agile assassin. His back to the enraged barbarian, Valistraz ducked low and slid across the creaky wooden floor, his cape flowing behind him as he turned to face the furious dwarf. Bluto, quick to recover his balance from the mighty crossing swing, turned his axes back towards the murderer. Valistraz ably parried the strong blows to the side with his dark swords, he made quick note of the roused adventurers.

A searing blast of lightning cut through the air towards the dark elf as he twisted his body to dodge the arcing head of the snapping magical serpent. Feeling the sting of the electric snake Valistraz was reminded just why hated magic so much. Armereth stood reeling from the channeling of her spell, and watched as Bertha heaved her axe in a crushing downwards strike towards the nefarious drow. Off balance from dodging Armereth’s spell, the assassin couldn’t fully escape the overhand blow of Bertha’s great axe. The magical axe bit at Valistraz’s shoulder as he sidestepped again attempting to get behind his quarry. This time his skilled footwork was met with resistance, the dwarf’s axe had pinned his cape to the floor. He would make sure she died slowly for having damaged his beloved magical piwafwi cloak.

Pants stood from his bedroll and concentrated on the magic sword he had pulled from it’s sheath. A moment later the blade was bathed in a searing flame. Pants watched as Bluto and Bertha, his dear dwarven companions, fought with the drow. He was intent on swinging his flaming broadsword wherever the assassin next shifted his weight to; however, he heard a crash from behind and saw a nearly 8 foot tall spider crash through the door to Lorenna’s cottage and turned his avenging blade towards the monstrous creature. Connecting soundly with the spider’s carapace, Pants felt a satisfying crack as the monster let out a hiss of searing pain. Nearby, Riverwind gripped his holy symbol of Corellon and a flaming strike of holy light bathed the spider in more flames. The hideous arachnid rolled to the side and bit savagely at the cleric drawing blood, and a moment later pouring venom into the wound. Riverwind, recoiled and stepped back against the wall searching for a plan.

Valistraz swung his blades in a whirlwind as Pants turned to join the dwarfs in combat against him. His hands guided his wicked blades into the weak points in Bertha’s armor, savagely wounding her. Fire in her eyes, the dwarf spit blood from her mouth and tried slamming her shoulder into the drow. Valistraz seized the moment and bathed the area in a globe of darkness. He grabbed at a magical amulet and appeared a moment later next to Armereth. Her concentration broken as he stabbed hard into her shoulder with his curved short sword, the blood of her allies dripping from it’s tip. Armereth winced and pulled away as Pants roared in behind the assassin with her flaming sword. The flames stopped short of Valistraz as he met the downward strike with a crossed sword defense. Pants gritted his teeth and pressed into the drow with all the strength he had left in his body. Valistraz rolled to the side, the warlord’s flaming sword striking hard into his shoulder. The assassin immediately twirled his swords in defense as the dwarfs came up to aid their exhausted companion.

Each blow the tired eXtraordinares launched at the sinister assassin was met with an able side step, or a devastating riposte. All three warriors were bleeding; however, they took solace in the fact that the evil dark elf was also wounded.

Exhausted and fearful for himself and his allies, Riverwind clutched at his holy symbol and prayed hard to elven god. His prayers were met with no response, “Has Correlon forsaken us?” wondered the cleric as his fears were met with a devastating sight. Valistraz had managed to turn aside Bluto’s axes and use the momentum from that parry to get behind Pants.

“Pants!” the sound of Riverwinds scream cut through the torrential pounding of rain on the rickety roof above.

Pants had lost his footing, too exhausted to stand with the drow, and realized all too late that Valistraz was standing behind her. Bertha and Bluto watched in horror as they saw the blades pierce through Pant’s armor. First the flames of his sword vanished then Pants fell to the ground. Valistraz smiled in grim satisfaction, as he turned his blades towards Bluto. The strength of the heroic barbarian was overwhelmed by the flurry of strikes from the cool headed assassin. Soon, Bluto was left clinging to life by merit of his rage alone.

Riverwind was shaken by the falling of his comrade; however, he concentrated on his holy symbol and Bluto felt a light bathe him in rejuvenating energy. Valistraz knew who his next target had to be.

Realizing the threat posed to their cleric, Bertha and Bluto stood shoulder to shoulder between Valistraz and Riverwind. The dark elf charged forward with a surge of energy which put the dwarfs on guard; however, at the last second he rolled to side and slashed at the platemail clad fighter. Bertha grabbed at her side as the twisted blade struck home; she turned to see Valistraz strike Riverwind hard in the arm, the holy symbol falling from his hands. Bertha roared like a comet through the air and knocked Valistraz into the simmering pot Lorenna left cooking. Valistraz shouted as he stood to his feet, covered in some scalding liquid. The entire side of his face was burned savagely. He would make sure the dwarf knew a VERY slow death.

Armereth bombarded the spider from across the room with every spell she could think of. Flashes of green, silver and red light filled the small cottage as the spider turned it’s attention to the wizard. As the spider skittered towards the wizard, she disappeared; appearing moments later across the room, behind where the spider had just come from. Sliding into the table in the center of the room the spider reversed it’s course and barreled forward towards the wizard. Seconds later it was upon her, pinning her to the wall with it’s venomous fangs. Fearing for the safety of his wizard, Bluto rushed to her aid. His axes working in unison to tear feverishly into the back of the spider. It hissed and released it’s grip on Armereth who ran for the other side of the room again.

Riverwind, feeling his life slip away grasped his holy symbol from the floor and rushed forward to aid his fallen friend Pants; however, he was met by the blades of the skilled assassin. Riverwind crashed to the floor, a whisper echoing in his head. “Peace” was the last word Riverwind heard, the silvery voice of Correlon welcoming him to the afterlife.

Bertha watching yet another companion fall to the blade of the insidious drow charged forward again hoping to catch Valistraz before he could react; however, he turn and countered her swings with his own.

Bluto knew he was beaten, the spider proved too strong for his tired muscles; however, he saw an opening to potentially bring the beast down with him. He dove straight towards the gaping maw of the beast and slashed into it, dazing the creature long enough to swing again and again into it’s belly. The spider, recovering from it’s surprise bit down hard, pouring the last of it’s venom into the dwarf. Bluto heard the fangs dive down into his back; however, he felt no pain as he fell to the floor totally numb from the spider’s poison.

Armereth knew there was nothing left in her arsenal save for her wall of fire. She knew it to be extremely dangerous inside such a small building; however, she had no other choice. She concentrated on the spell as the spider dropped Bluto to the ground. The room, burst into flames. Valistraz was caught in the wall, the arcane fires licking over his body. He dove to one side, hoping a moments respite to catch his now waning breath. He instead met the cold steal of Bertha Bronzebottom. She slashed down hard again, this time catching the drow in the leg. He recoiled and then lunged forward, the dwarf had not recovered and he didn’t need a second invitation. Both of his blades dove in, seeking the opposite side of the dwarf’s armor. As he pulled his swords out he smiled as he stared into her eyes.

“Too fast a death… you deserved so much more, dwarf!” he spit at her.

Armereth concentrated again on firing as many spells off as she could. She knew if she continued channeling magic through her body it would kill her; however, she didn’t have much choice. It was either the slow sapping of her essence by the overuse of magic or the quick death guaranteed by the assassin. She fired off magic missle after magic missle towards the drow as he reeled from each successive hit. The spider was upon her first, it’s clacking mandibles tearing at her flesh and concentration. Then, Valistraz Nefarion was upon her. As silent as a shadow he slid his long sword into her belly.

“It is done” he whispered with a relieved exhale.

After taking note of his own physical state, Valistraz moved quickly between the bodies, sinking his blades in once more to ensure the condition of his quarry. The fires in the room had spread, and his double checking of the bodies was likely unnecessary; however, Valistraz Nefarion took no chances. He paused prior to breaking the wand of teleportation he had received from Kalarel over a year ago. He smiled as he felt the pull of the spell taking effect. Then his eyes filled with a mix of rage and horror. As he dematerialized from the witches shack, he saw the door swing open.

“Impossible!” he thought to himself.

Standing in the doorway soaked from the rain was a bald headed half elf and a shadowy rogue.



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