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Saga of the Exiles - episode 7

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 8 months ago

Husam-al'Karim crouched forward in his saddle and raised a hand to protect his eyes from the blazing desert sun. From the brow of the ridge he could see the rich caravan moving slowly across the golden sands. The pennant of Prince Xavier of Ophir flew from the lances of the shining cavalrymen guarding the caravan. Husam-al’Karim did not recognise the pennant and did not yet know who Prince Xavier was, and his eyes were quickly drawn to the promise held in the wooden boxes swinging from the sides of the camel train. To his right he heard the command to charge. He paused briefly as his brothers and their horses hurtled down the side of the dune towards the startled soldiers. Then he raised his sword above his head, let out a whoop of delight and dug his spurs into the soft flesh of his horse’s flank.

 

The words of Ultimius Primus, scourge of the Picts

 

After we reached the valley within the mountains of Orun we travelled towards the temple. Once we were within eye-shot, we were surprised to see the temple blockaded by a Stygian army and slaves hard at work bringing dirt out of a side passage. The temple was a great pyramid and steps up the front of ascended perhaps 150 feet before they ended in an opening guarded by four Stygian soldiers. The soldiers were armed with bows and it was obvious that even a rapid charge would be suicidal.

 

As we watched the guards, Kopthetu led Baron Arlus aside and spoke to him at some length, telling him that the Stygians were led by a renegade general named Kephros. Kopthetu revealed that he was not a scholar, but was instead an assassin sent by the Great Pharaoh to kill Kephros. Baron Arlus agreed to a loose alliance with Kopthetu, but made no promises to him and then returned to us and told us of these revelations.

 

While “discussing” our options, the Zamoran prisoner escaped his bonds. We caught sight of him as he deftly climbed the side of the pyramid and crawled through a hole just above the main entrance.

 

We opted to follow the Zamoran under the cover of darkness. We did so with little disturbance and – more importantly – without raising the alarm.

 

It became obvious that the hole the Zamoran had crawled through was a shaft to allow light into a large chamber just beyond the main entrance. In this chamber a gilded throne sat upon a giant clawed hand carved from black stone. On the throne sat the renegade general. Guards surrounded him as he blissfully buried his nose in a smoking bowl of black lotus, taking deep inhalations of the powerful drug. Even from our perch we could smell the sweet and acrid stench.

 

Nesh-ar’ebra conjured the smoke from the bowl and sent it swirling about the room. Some of the guard were already heavy-eyed from the fumes and did not notice as the cloud drifted towards them. A couple of the guards slumped slowly to the ground as the general began to rant about his plans to crush the Pharaoh. Still the cloud moved and swirled until a full 12 of the guards fall into a drugged sleep. Only two were left standing on unsteady feet when the general finally took notice of events. He despatched the two guards to the door.

 

Prince Xavier and myself climbed back outside and then down the side of the pyramid to the entrance and attacked the four guards still standing outside. Xavier slipped slightly in climbing but recovered elegantly, lunging forward with his blade as he rose to his feet. I climbed more deftly and managed to slay one guard and mortally wound another before the others even noticed, but then I turned and found that Prince Xavier had been knocked unconscious by one of the other guards. Baron Arlus then leapt into the fray to defend his brother, rashly but heroically throwing himself from the ledge above and onto one guard who had begun to sound the alarm by blowing on a horn. Baron Arlus flattened the guard and the horn slipped away and disappeared down the stairs.

 

Meanwhile, inside, Nesh-ar’ebra concentrated the black lotus smoke on the general.

 

Outside I slew another guard and Baron Arlus badly wounded the last. This guard attempted to flee by jumping for the ledge, but the Baron cut him down before he could reach it.

 

The two guards who escaped the black lotus smoke inside the chamber then emerged from the entrance. I engaged them while Baron Arlus tended his brother.

 

Inside the chamber the general was aroused by the sound of combat drifting down the corridor and slowly lifted his head from the black lotus smoke controlled by Nesh-ar’ebra. Seeing this, Husam-al'Karim fired an arrow at the general. Nesh-ar’ebra then ceased concentrating on the smoke and focused his attention on aiming an arrow at the back of the general’s head. Although twin tattooed snakes winding up the back of the general’s neck provided a good target, the general managed to sneak through a secret passage suffering only grazes.

 

The two guards left at the top of the pyramid proved resilient and, with the general fleeing, Husam-al'Karim joined the small fray at the entrance. We finished the guards and then mercilessly slashed the throats of those rendered unconscious by the lotus smoke.

 

We spent a short time healing wounds and stripping the guards of weapons and armour to replace those we had lost. We did not delay long because we could see torches and activity lighting up in the Stygian camp. A short time later the pyramid was assaulted. Baron Arlus hurled a great brazier down the stairs and this sent soldiers leaping out of the way. Then we fled. Nesh-ar’ebra’s magic opened the secret door and, once we had passed through, sealed it again. Dargog carried the still unconscious Prince Xavier as we ran.

 

On the other side of the door we came to a sloping passage leading down and two small side passages. I determined that the general went down the slope and we could hear many footsteps coming from one of the side passages. We headed down the slope as quickly as we could.

 

In the darkness we came across a slave. He told us that the general and about ten guards were up ahead. Moving on we came to a roughly hewn tunnel which opened into a large chamber. In this chamber slaves dug away at what appeared to be a buried temple. The general urged the slaves to dig faster. Nesh-ar’ebra attempted to sneak forward, but alerted the general. He turned to face us, a mad grin on his face. “You are too late”, he cried gleefully, “he who will enslave you to me is already awakened.”

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