Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stone Falls - WHFB - The Night Lord Cometh

Finally we have the tale of what lies buried beneath the Stone Falls

Torchlight illuminated the rough granite walls of the cavern. Lukas' congregation moved aside as he stalked past them. His black robes dragging through the spilt ichor of the arachnids who had until moments ago made this cave their lair. “Put those corpses in the ante chamber, the fallen shall still serve the Night Lord” he barked.

As his followers hauled aside the remains of man and eight legged beast, Father Lukas Gistofarian snatched a torch from the hands of a stooped man, Lukas recalled the man, Pioter had come to their group from the alleyways of Nuln. A life in the powder choked slums of the Engineer's city had robbed Pioter of health and livelihood but here in this group all were equal under Lukas' tuition and guidance.

Lukas held the torch aloft and with a gnarled hand scrapped the lichen from the ancient stone work. Runes from ages past marked the worked stone, a door concealed in the natural rock. Lukas whirled around, his men looking at him expectantly.
“Bring the tools and get to work. This is what we seek brothers, the Night Lord's resting place!”

Robed men from all walks of Imperial life toiled at the door. Their tools breaking the seals set in place centuries ago. Hired blades from Marienburg looked onwards, looks of amusement and contempt directed at the fanatical group. Lukas cared not for the opinions of the mercenaries, as long as they defended his men while they were at task. Their ignorance at the significance of this find would soon be resolved when the Lord of Eternal Shadow walked this world once more.
Stale air filled the chamber as the seals broke. Escaping gases from an ages confinement caused a fit of coughing and retching amongst the mercenaries. Now his followers sneered and shared knowing looks. The hired swords may be hardened individuals, but the constitution to consort with that required of Lukas' flock was beyond them. As a pair of heavy set men in tattered clothes shoved the doorway open, Lukas stepped into the darkness drawing his enchanted dagger.

A massive chamber cut from sand coloured stone opened before him. Four thick slab sided pillars supporting the ceiling and dust caked webs hung between them like funerary shrouds. Father Lukas stalked I, drawing a length of twisted black ironwood from the confines of his vestments. Muttering arcane words under his breath, the wand responded and emanated an otherworldly purple light.  

Leading his men, Lukas forged on through these forgotten chambers. Passageways were lit with torches and oily smoke trickled into rooms where the walls were decorated with faded scenes of battle. Images of crude towns set to flame and legions of skeletal warriors marching to war were seen by living eyes for the first time in this age. A well or pit of sorts dominated the centre of the next large chamber. Clicking and scraping noises echoing up from its Stygian depths. Brave or foolhardy men clambered to peer over the bricked edge, one dropping his lit torch into the darkness. The group strained their vision to follow the fire's descent and as it finally hit the bottom far below the men recoiled. Something moved in the depths, undulating past the patch of fitful illumination, something old and terrible, better left to the subterranean world than be seen by the fragile minds of the surface. Even the horrors witnessed and committed by these men were paltry in the presence of what they failed to comprehend below.

Lukas considered stealing a glance but caught himself. He needed his wits about him as unknowable threats could conceal themselves anywhere in these forgotten halls. “Away from there you fools” he cried, his words breaking the bewilderment of the men. “We do not seek what lies below. Our liege will be in an elevated chamber as befits his station in command of the Berserker's legions. Away from there and search these other passages.”

Days passed in the dark barrow, flickering torchlight failing to mark the passage of time. As his men worked at internal seals within the complex. Lukas made forays outside into the forest air,  word had come to him that the curious bastard Otto Mannfried was rushing about the area, spooked at portents and signs. Well so he should be, once the Night Lord was freed these hamlets and hovels within the Reikwald would burn. How dare they lay claim to the Darkthorn wood, when the Nightlord had ruled it with blade and an army eternal.
As the excavations continued, alcoves filled with tribute caskets were found.  Coins, gemstones and trinkets of past conquest were ignore.  The material goods were of little concern, let the sell swords who stood guard in the entry caves take their fill when the faithfuls work was complete.  They had found the last door at the end of a long stepped hallway.  Etched into the stonework was a massive knotwork design of ancient tribal design.  In the centre of the swirling mass sat a fanged skull, it's surface stained to an inky finish absorbing the torchlight.  Lukas screeched orders to his followers who burst into renewed action.  Picks and massive pry bars were hefted up the stone steps and labour on the door ensued. 
As Lukas supervised the work he was oblivious to what was going on further back in the complex.  Adventurers from Stone Falls had discovered the caves and the mercenaries within.  Negotiations had failed horribly at the ends of sharp blades and crossbow bolts.  The adventurers, an embittered trio had worked their way through the cleared halls dispatching Lukas' followers with extreme prejudice.  They had slaughtered the watchmen and their hounds in the pillared entrance.  The men in the well chamber had all perished to the adventurers magic and weapons, the scout in the group pinning a faithful brother to the very stone walls with the force of his arrows.  A pagan man of the forest split open clergymen who did their best to defend themselves with spear and tools.  The third invader, a man of luminous complexion flung bolts of arcane energy as his malformed homunculus cut apart Lukas' flock with its talons limbs. 
The screams of the dying echoed up the staircase alerting Lukas to the grisly demise of his men.  With panic he urged on the labourers.  Swiftly the intruders swept up the steps and set to murder. Lukas called on the power of his wand and ensorcelled the pagan druid with dancing blades.  As his followers bled upon the ancient flagstones a final burst of frantic action had the last standing follower break the seal on the final doors.  A gust of stale air exhaled from the doors, cold seeped into Lukas and the trio from Stone Falls.  The luminous mage fled as a crash of stone sounded within the darkness of the crypt, a heavy metal footfall followed and living shadow crept through the opening.  As the pagan and archer cautiously retreated Lukas turned to witness the resurrection of his Night Lord.  The heavy stone doors rumbled open and a figure clad in layered plate strode out. The towering warrior surveyed the carnage, his empty sockets pooling with living darkness.  Lukas squealed in delight as the arisen warlord took another step toward the interlopers but his euphoria was cut short as the ranger fired a lethal arrow into Lukas' sunken chest.  Lukas' voice devolved into a wet gurgle as blood erupted in his throat, his knees cracking as they hit the stone floor.  He looked pleadingly at the Nightlord but his silent call for help went unanswered as the ancient Wight moved on past, an unknown goal the priority of his reinvigorated undead mind.  When Lukas's skull split upon the cold flagstones his dying sight drank in the image of his risen sovereign ignoring the intruders and disappear from view as he descended the steps.  With the last of his vital fluids seeping away Lukas felt the final defilement as the adventurers gathered their resolve and looted the corpses of about them, his own fingers prised apart and the arcane tool pocketed like a common trinket.  With his final pulse of life Lukas heard the confused mutterings of these men, these living fools.  The Nightlord had been freed and now he would gather the rest of Morkhain's fallen court and these lands of men would burn once more.....
...Lukas peered through milky orbs, his mind working at a crawl to comprehend the scene before him.  He moved with faltering steps, his body now one amongst legion.  Across muddied ground stood a wall of scarred timber where tiled and patched roofs sheltered within.  Lukas rasped and worked his rigor stuck jaw, his groan echoed by those animated around him.  A mental push caused the entire horde to surge forward like pieces on a board.  Lukas understood now, he knew even as the mind that was his own faded away, that he would serve the Nightlord, now and until the Empire itself was ash.

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