Athos: The Return

Session LXXIX: Dining with the Dead

Chapter 79: Dining with the Dead

From the scholarly text “On The Coming of the Third Age”

The First Dungeon continued to challenge the demigods, and with the Arachna Queen and her spiderlings defeated, the demigods stopped for a few moments to catch their breath. “Are we ready? Vinsanthius, Valanae, and Vondal are still ahead.” Standing up, the demigods made a check of all their equipment, and got ready to push on forward. Several dark tunnels lead deeper down into the dungeon, each lit by a single torch. Orange light flicked on the stone walls, and the party rushed past to find their brothers and sister.

The next chamber had only dim lights illuminating the room, and unlike the last there was a large feast table in the center. Pounds of uneaten food and dining wear sat at a table to never be eaten. The table’s guests were each undead, chunks of flesh hanging off their decaying bodies. At the head of the table sat a massive Lich, skin clutching to bones with naught but magic to keep him standing. But the Lich spawned by the dungeon was not alone, and across the table from him sat Nekolaj, The Corpse Whisperer and the 132nd Child of Athos. Nekolaj was last seen at the Urn of Annihilation, where his presence came as a shock to the demigods. Once beheaded by Vinsanthius for refusing the denounce Nox and join The Conclave, he had long been believed dead. When he was found guarding The Urn of Annihilation on Sysitar, Vondal was his captive and being used to power the Urn. Defeated by Random, he vowed to return. Now, the party had finally caught up to him.

“Dance my puppets, dance.” Nekolaj motioned towards Valanae and Vondal, waving his hands like a conductor leading a symphony. “Go, protect the gate!” His second command went towards the small child he had with him, now at the end of the hall. The child stumbled and ran away, deeper into the dungeon. “I’ll follow him, and keep the Behemoth from awakening!” Vinsanthius broke from restraining Vondal, and rushed after the child. “Wait! Don’t go!” Oberon and Anatolius shouted. “He’s dangerous, you can’t fight Behemoth alone. It would be stupid.” Uruhua agreed. “I can’t let him stop us from getting back into heaven. I won’t let him keep me from going home.” Vinsanthius stood strong, conviction in his eyes and ready to rush forward. “Follow your heart.” Simon Bloom regretfulyl spoke, hoping his brother would choose wisely. “I’ll be careful” he replied, and with that Vinsanthius chased after the child.

“Now it’s just us.” Nekolaj turned his head towards the party, his neck twisting around and pulling the skin like only an undead could do. He then gave out a shriek, and a high pitched laugh. “It seems the Dungeon thought it wise to create a challenge of a Lich and his undead for us. It only took a whisper for these bodies to fall under my control.” Nekolaj cracked his neck to the left, then the right with the Lich and each of the undead table guests copying perfectly in sync. “How could I resist?” Nekolaj stood, the undead followed, and the battle began.

Uruhua rushed forward, a twirl of her spear and a forceful shout, “Destroy them!” Behind her, Anatolius began to fling fireballs from his fingertips, each smashing into Nekolaj, blue flames licking his face. The undead swarmed forward, striking out at the party. But a few stayed behind, and both the Lich and Nekolaj had an entourage of corpses around them. Across the room Vondal swayed, possessed by Nekolaj, and stuck out at his sister Valanae. “Dance puppet!” Nekolaj gave out another high shriek. Around the party, Oberon cast out a burst of light at an undead, and stuck by the Light of Athos he melted away, the body turning to ash. Simon Bloom conjured up a wall of multicolored lightning around them, stopping several of the undead in their tracks and knocking their bodies lifelessly to the floor. But these corpses, soon after falling to the ground rose up again ready to strike.

“Oberon – blast away at those corpses! Your light is keeping them down.” Antolius shouted back, blasting away again with Uruhua at Nekolaj. The black blood leaking out of the demigod didn’t stop his maniacal laughter. Vondal shook off Nekolaj’s control, and the spell jumped to Valanae, now rolling her eyes back into her head as she fell under the Corpse Whisperer’s control. “Take him down!” Uruhua slammed her spear into Nekolaj, pushing him back and earning herself a bolt of black magic in return. With Nekolaj focused on his sister, Anatolis saw his opening. His blade came smashing down into Nekolaj’s shoulder, and he gushed up blood with a dark laugh, collapsing to the floor. A hiss, and the body dissolved into a pile of goop. Simon, holding back the undead investigated. It seemed that Nekolaj was up to his usual tricks, and while his body may have died the body certainly lives on. “He’s not dead yet” Simon said, “He’s still bound himself to this world.” In response, an undead grabbed his face, ripping off the flesh and revealing the gruesome laughing face of their brother besides him. Nekolaj, having jumped into a new body, stood again. “Now, I’m over here!” He pulled the spirit from Valanae, knocking the demigod out. Then he pushed it into Anatolius attempting to dominate his mind. Quick to action, Oberon saved his brother and kept him from acting against his allies.

“The phylactery is on the Lich – take him out next.” Simon shouted, striking at the undead. “Oberon and I will keep his minions down.” In response, a bolt of light shot out from OBeron, dusting another of the undead. Uruhua and Anatolius began to focus on the Lich. “Quick, give me your phylactery.” Nekolaj commanded the Lich, who ran forward to hand it to his newfound master. From beneath his cloak, he removed a small, smooth black coffin the size of his palm. “Here, master.” Nekolaj grabbed the phylactery and stepped away from the Lich, blasting away at the party all the while. Yet it was not enough to stop the demigods from smashing through his minions. Oberon’s light and the walls of Simon Bloom took down many, and Vondal cleaved two in half with mighty blows from his axe. Soon, all that remained were Nekolaj and the Lich. “Stay strong! Stay standing!” Nekolaj commanded his Lich, pushing power into the phylactery. Dark magic slid out of his fingertips into the smooth coffin before him. More blows landed on the Lich, and the bones of the ancient undead creaked. “No! Stay standing! I command it!” Nekolaj shouted pushing more power into the Lich. Oberon, fearful of his brother’s actions, cast a weakening spell on the Lich, “Strike now!” The Lich fell, and the party turned to Nekolaj, pummeling him with blows. “I told you, rise!” The Lich’s body stood up again, unwilling to die so long as his phylactery remained intact. “Don’t fail your master now.” But even as he commanded the Lich to stay standing, he couldn’t hold off against the onslaught of blows all directed at him now and soon, Nekolaj’s body turned again to slime. Next, he jumped bodies again into that of Lich. And this was his final mistake.

Cut off from restoration by Oberon’s spell, the body of the Lich was still weak. “This body is perfect! I should have come here long ago, to The First Dungeon to secure a perfect body for commanding the undead.” Nekolaj gave out another laugh, this one his last. “Now, I am unstoppable!” Two blows of fire from Anatolius glanced off of him, the body of the Lich still protected. Oberon rushed over to the the slime that Nekolaj left behind, flying quickly over the feast table. In the robes, he searched for the phylactery of the Lich. However, instead of the small smooth coffin that was seen earlier, Oberon found something else. A spiked orb that began oozing and squirming as soon as Oberon touched it. Dark energy dripping out of it, even the light of Obeon’s body was dimmed by the black phylactery. But even darker was the expression on Nekolaj’s face, gone from pure ecstasy to devestation. “How did that get here?” Oberon raised his mace, and as Nekolaj screamed the Light of Athos stuck his brother’s phylactery. A huge burst of light exploded across the room, and a wave of energy washed over the entire party. Nekolaj screamed, and from the feet up his body flaked away until there was nothing more. Oberon smiled, “It looks like when he took on the body of the Lich, the creature’s phylactery took on the form of his own. He’s gone forever now, truly dead at last.”

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