Monday, November 23, 2009

The Winterhaven Saga, Explained



The fog is gone.

The deep, dark mental state of confusion and depression has lifted from the city of Winterhaven. Seemingly interminable, the haze that enveloped the city’s populace apparently lasted for several weeks.

No one could anticipate this. And no one is really sure what went on in Winterhaven during those lost days, except that the all of the trade and commerce that usually goes on in the marketplace was shut down. But now, thanks to our exclusive interview with five heretofore unknown adventurers, we know who was responsible for this phenomenon and how we were set free.

The Winterhaven Post Tribune’s own Latyna Ramshackle was on hand as the adventurers returned to the city after their harrowing experience. Here is the exclusive interview with the renowned Sir Usain Bolt, the goliath, Bear, devoted servant of Berronar, Zorab, and master of the shamanistic arts, Nementah “the Freshmaker.” Sadly, they carried between them the fifth of their party, the noble and mysterious halfling (or goblin, or tiefling, or something...), Arca, who had perished during their mission.

LATYNA RAMSHACKLE: Good sirs and ummm, tree, uh, woman. How does it feel to know that you have saved our fair city? How does it feel to know that you are heroes of Winterhaven?

USAIN: Hey girl! What’s up? No, umm, it feels great, you know? I mean, we’re a little beat up, and that punk Kalarel was a tough cracker, but he got his.

ZORAB: We have acted out of a need to bring safety to your peaceful community. The abominable actions going on in that keep have been ended. Your gratitude is noted and welcome, however we do not desire hero worship. Justice is its own reward…

BEAR: Don’t listen to him! I wouldn’t mind a little worship! We deserve it after all we went through! It was crazy down there, man. There were zombies all over the place, there were these weird bug things, and there was this hand, you know? Giant hand! [the goliath gestured with his arms to accentuate his point.] [Whispering] I saw darkness man. Not just darkness, you know, but DARKNESS. There were things in there, man, bad things. Evil things…[trailing off and staring blankly into the distance]

NEMENTAH: There WERE bad things. All of them enemies of nature. I am glad they are gone and your city is safe.

LATYNA: I am sorry about your fallen comrade.

ZORAB: He died valiantly, expending all his efforts toward defeating the enemies of righteousness. His courage in the face of evil…

USAIN: Courage?!? That fool dove headfirst into a bloody pit! In my land, we call that stupid. But whatever, he did his job. We got a dude coming to get him back on his feet. I think this is him now!

DR. NYK RHYVIAIRA, local miracle man: Hi everybody! What seems to be the problem?

NEMENTAH: Our friend is dead.

DR. NYK: I see, I see. Fortunately for you it looks like he’s only MOSTLY dead.

ZORAB [aside to Bolt]: Are you sure this man is qualified? What god divinely empowers his resurrecting ability?

USAIN: Naw, it’s all good. He does his business his own way. [winks] And he’s giving us a discount. Trust me.

BEAR: Sounds good to me! More loot for the rest of us!

DR. NYK: All finished! 600 gold, please!

BEAR: 600 gold! That’s ludicrous! That wasn’t worth it at all!

ZORAB [looking sternly at Bear]: Of course it was. Material wealth means nothing compared to the life of a companion.

BEAR [grumbling]: I coulda bought like 6,000 bedrolls with that…

ARCA [rising from the ground in the shape of a halfling]: Wha…where am I? What happened? Why do I look like an overgrown halfling? Holy crap is THIS a hangover.

ZORAB: You were slain by Kalarel, but we have defeated him and now you have been returned to life.

LATYNA: You keep referring to this Kalarel – who is he? What was he doing down there? What really happened?

ZORAB: Let me explain. I fear that my friends may have a tendency to embellish.

We all felt called, each in his or her own way, to the keep. Knowing that there was something we needed to do, we agreed to join forces to battle whatever evil it was that had taken residence in the depths of the manor. Not long after we descended into the darkness, we encountered the ghost of one of those who had come before us to free your city. He guided us to the two living adventurers from that party. We were able to free them from the clutches of a possessed ooze. The two, Taran and Lotheryn, were very weak from their torture, so they told us the details of their errand and evacuated the keep. We agreed to continue with their quest – to find Kalarel, a worshipper of the evil god Orcus, who was trying to reopen a rift. The rift would create a portal between this world and a plane filled with unholy demons and beasts. It was the weakening of the seal holding this portal closed that caused the fog which plagued your city.

After a few misturns, I felt my god, Berronar guide me toward a heavy set of doors. We approached with caution but heard only silence on the other side. We opened the doors to complete blackness. I lit a sunrod and looked into the room.

It appeared to be a large hall, devoid of life. However, dominating the middle of the room was a large statue of a warrior maiden. Two statues depicting crouched dragons sat along the far wall. And across the room from us we saw an antechamber flanked by four statues of cherubs. I entered warily. There was no movement, but something about the room did not sit well in my soul.

USAIN [shaking his head]: Your soul! Listen to this guy! I ain’t afraid of that stuff. I charged right in and nailed that ugly statue.

BEAR [laughing]: Yeah, and then it dropped you flat on your ugly ass!

USAIN: At least I don’t throw rocks at spiders when I haven’t a giant hammer in my hand!

ZORAB: This is why I insisted on telling the story. Moving on. As soon as Bolt attacked the statue, the doors closed behind us, locking Arca, Nementah, and Bear out of the chamber...

ARCA: But I used my superior skills to pick that lock, no problem.

USAIN: Just like you used those skills to disable the traps on the floor, right?

ARCA [transforming into a goblin]: For the last time, I didn’t know they were arcane runes!

LATYNA [looking at Arca and screaming]: Aieee!!! A giant goblin!

ARCA [morphing into a tiefling and wiggling his fingers in a strange manner]: What goblin? Where? I’ll spitefully glamour it!

NEMENTAH [patting Latyna on the shoulder]: Don’t worry. He does this often.

LATYNA [glancing nervously at the changeling]: O-o-okay. P-please continue.

ZORAB: Indeed.

After the others joined Bolt and I in the room, Bolt threw his bedroll at the statue, which was once again motionless. As we feared, the statue came to life again and destroyed the object as soon as it was within reach. [Bolt: That was my favorite bedroll too! You see the sacrifices we made?]

We carefully inched along the near wall to the other side of the room, staying well back from the statue. Bear was the first to the far side of the room, and he entered the antechamber. Without warning, an arcane field separated the antechamber from the rest of the room, and the cherubs lining the walls of the chamber began to fill the room with water…

BEAR: Good thing I’m 7’8” because otherwise, I might have drowned. But I had everything under control. No panic from me!

ARCA: Are you kidding? Not only could you not destroy the cherubs with that huge weapon that you use [aside to Latyna: Compensating for something, if you ask me], but you caused the water to pour out faster, AND you made the dragon statues spit fire at us. And then, in a brilliant display of quick wit, you tried to tie yourself to one of the statues when the water started swirling. You failed at that, by the way…

BEAR: I didn’t see you doing anything useful, mister fabulous glamour!

ARCA: Me and Zorab were shutting down the dragon statues during your little bubble bath.

ZORAB: Actually, Nementah discovered the source of their power, and Arca and I were able to use our knowledge of the magic arts to disable the enchantment that powered the dragon statues and the force field.

After we accomplished that, we toppled the cherubs to prevent another entrapment. The encounter had left us drained and wounded, so we camped right there and regained our strength.

USAIN: I had to sleep on the cold, wet floor because that statue destroyed my bedroll. But I endured.

LATYNA: You poor thing! You must have been freezing!

USAIN: Nah, I had my plate armor to keep me warm.

ZORAB: Berronar guarded us while we slept and we woke up feeling refreshed. But we were not ready for what awaited us in the next room.

I activated another sunrod and we opened the door. I was chilled to my core by the site of countless zombies feeding on the remains of the dead. Such unholy beings should not be walking about. They are an affront to the creation of the gods. I quickly prayed for wisdom, and Berronar answered.

We closed the door and moved one of the fallen cherub statues in front of it to buy us some time.

USAIN: Yeah, no thanks to Bear, who wanted to charge in there and fight them all himself. I had to intimidate him with my pimpness to get him to stop.

BEAR [grumpily folding his arms and pouting]: I could have handled them. In my culture, we would never back away.

ARCA: That’s because none of you has the brain power to come up with a plan…

BEAR [brandishing warhammer]: What was that?

ZORAB: Enough.

Berronar told me that the only way to defeat the zombies was to use the power of the statue against them. Someone would have to lure the zombies into range. I knew it should be me.

LATYNA: How incredibly brave…

ZORAB [shaking his head]: No, what I do in response to my god for the safety of others is not bravery, only obedience.

LATYNA [looking exasperated]: Alright…

USAIN: He’s like this all the time. It’s all you’re going to get from him. Let me tell this thing the right way.

So we backed off as the zombies burst through the door and charged right at Z standing there in front of the statue. And I have to say, the plan worked the first time; that statue chopped through three of those things like they were nothing. Problem was it chopped through the invoker as well. So Z gets up, but he knows he can’t take another swing from the statue, so he runs right up to the rest of those undead punks and blows half of em away with his god magic.

ZORAB [clearing throat]: Actually it was a divine blast of holy, radiant energy meant to seek out those who have been necrotically reanimated from long dead corpses and destroy them.

USAIN: Right right, god magic. So he does that. Meanwhile, Bear over here climbs up ON TOP OF THE STATUE and gets ready to jump on the next zombie to get anywhere near him. And the statue can’t get him because he’s on top of it, see?

BEAR [looks proud of himself]

USAIN: All of a sudden, more zombies show up and run over Zorab. It’s a big mess. But I lead the cavalry back into the fight so we can save him. Then one of these super zombies moves up to take us out, and Bear does this crazy flying leap to try to take out this fool. As expected, he lands about 5 feet short…

BEAR [looking indignant]: No, no, no, I planned that the whole time. See, I wanted the zombie to THINK that I wouldn’t reach him…

USAIN [interrupting]: …because zombies can think…

BEAR [continuing]: …so that I could swing as soon as I hit the ground and take out his kneecaps. It’s an ancient goliath fighting technique. I’ve practiced that since I was a kid.

USAIN [rolling eyes]: Sure. So anyway, then Nementah comes up and heals Zorab and we sent those zombies back to the afterlife.

NEMENTAH [sighing]: I am constantly using my powers of healing to save all of you. Such is my lot in this fight against evil…You’re always charging in, heedless of the danger, trying to prove yourselves macho or whatever. [snorts derisively] Men.

LATYNA [nods knowingly]

ARCA: We appreciate the healing…

NEMENTAH: You’d better. Anyway, let me carry on with this. After we defeated the zombies, we entered the next room. It was awful; there were dead bodies everywhere, most of them half-eaten by the zombies. And, just like in the rest of this dismal place, it was made entirely of stone, with not a sign of natural life. Clean up the bodies, maybe put a ficus in the corner, and some hanging hydrangeas, it would have really given the place a warmer feel. But no, I was forced to wander through this cold, stony tomb.

We took a short break to rest after the zombies, and our paladin found a small crevice leading into a hidden chamber. When he came back, he showed us a brilliant red jewel that had a sort of renewing energy. How many bodies he had to go through to find it, I don’t want to know…

BEAR: Don’t forget, he was also chewing on some old dead guy’s arm!

LATYNA [shuddering]: Ewww…

USAIN: No way! I keep telling you, it was beef jerky from my pack. I was hungry.

ARCA: I was eating a corpse’s arm. [Everyone looks at Arca with disgust.] What? A little barbecue sauce, some bleu cheese dressing, that’s some good eating…

BEAR: Alright; enough of that. My turn to tell the story.

So after our rest, we charged through the doors on the other side of the room, which is how I like to do things. These big ugly, ogre looking dudes came at us, but me and Bolt took em out. Well, it was mostly me, since Bolt kept getting knocked unconscious, but I handled those thugs, no problem. Then we took out this evil priest looking guy who kept singing funny songs about something named Orcus. Kind of catchy, now that I think about it. [singing off-key] “He came from hell to earth, to kill your mom. From the …”

ARCA: Whoa whoa whoa, did you forget the part where I singlehandedly took out like 8 vampires and some other little creeptastic thing?

ZORAB: Actually, Nementah, her spirit companion and I assisted you…

ARCA: Yeah, yeah, but it was mostly me. And then I nailed that underpriest. Should have been an overpriest! Heh heh.

After I took care of that fool, we searched the room. There was a bloody altar on one side and there were these rivers of blood going down into this hole in the center of the room. We looked around for awhile, but we couldn’t figure out how to stop the blood. So I did what I had to do – I ran as fast as I could and leapt into the hole!

LATYNA [looking aghast]: You didn’t!

ARCA [puffing out his chest]: Oh yeah, I wasn’t afraid. I knew there was some sort of evil magic down there. So I went to find it and destroy it.

When I got down there (landing on my feet, by the way), there were some skeletons, a weird wight-looking thing, and then some crazy guy with a Flock of Seagulls Haircut waving his staff all over the place and yelling about a rift. So I busted out my Eldritch Blasting skills and took those things down.

ZORAB: Actually, when I slid down into the pit next to you, you were shivering violently and babbling. I had to say a prayer over you just to get you out of your trance. And then it took all of us working as a team to eliminate our foes.

USAIN: Except Bear, who took his sweet time jumping down.

BEAR: Hey! The blood was slippery, alright? And I was wearing my Himalayan walking shoes. They’re comfortable. Check em out [shows the reporter his shoes].

LATYNA: Your feet do look resilient.

ZORAB [looking impatient]: Continuing.

We immediately recognized the eccentric man as Kalarel, and judging by the large statue of the death god Orcus on one side of the room, it became clear that he was using necrotic powers to open the rift. The rift itself dominated one side of the chamber, a gaping blackness that seemed to strain as evil creatures attempted to burst through. Kalarel was near to finishing his task.

We destroyed Kalarel’s minions and confronted the emissary of death himself. His powers were strong, and he thwarted us at every turn, blasting us with necrotic energy that drained the life from us. I prayed that Berronar would see us through.

But then Kalarel struck Usain with his staff, knocking him out. The only way to save him was for Bear to sacrifice his own health so Nementah could heal Bolt.

NEMENTAH: I didn’t want to do it that way, but it was the only chance we had to keep Usain alive.

USAIN [turning to Bear]: Really, man? You did that for me? [Bear nods] Come here, brother. [They tearfully embrace, Bolt pressed against the goliath’s massive bosom, sobbing. Suddenly they both look around and notice everyone staring at them. They back away from each other, looking at the ground and clearing their throats nervously.]

ARCA: Are you boys finished with your lovefest or what? Anyway, that Kalarel guy teleported right in front of the rift, and seemed to get stronger. Bear charged over there, but a giant hand came out of the rift and…

BEAR: DON’T TALK ABOUT THE HAND! [curling up in the fetal position, shivering and whispering to himself] Not the hand. Not the rift. So dark. So cold.

ZORAB: It was truly a frightening sight. The hand grabbed Bear and attempted to pull him into the rift. I went to grab him, hoping to keep him from a fate worse than you can possibly imagine. [Bear whimpers] By Berronar’s grace, the hand let go and tried to grab me. I dodged out of the way and Bear was able to escape to safety, only to be struck down, unconscious, by one of Kalarel’s curses.

LATYNA [turning to Bolt and putting her hand on his arm]: And what were you doing while this was going on, brave paladin?

USAIN [looking uncomfortable]: You know, ummm, fighting Kalarel, and ummm, being, uhhh, paladin-like. And stuff.

ARCA: Ha! You were hiding behind Bear’s body like a little girl! Big old paladin in his metal armor throwing butter knives from the corner!

USAIN: Naw naw, I was protecting Bear’s body. I didn’t want him to get hurt any more than he was! And I had to, uhh, lay hands on him!

ARCA [snorts derisively]: Yeah, and I’m a dwarf! [morphs into a dwarf] Damn.

ZORAB: We were all injured by that time. Kalarel was proving to be a dangerous foe. He took out each of us, one by one, killing Arca, and knocking the others unconscious. I was the only one standing.

Because of Berronar’s divine presence within me, I have a certain resistance to necrotic powers. It was all that sustained me. Bolstered by my god’s strength, I withstood Kalarel’s blows and called forth divine lightning. Finally, both of us bleeding, both of us appealing to the gods we served, Berronar’s justice reigned as Kalarel was struck down by a vicious bolt of divine energy. Upon dropping to his knees, the very evil he was trying to unleash turned on him. The rift sucked him in and immediately went still, safely closed once more. Winterhaven is safe.

LATYNA [shaking her head in awe]: Incredible. So what will you do now?

ZORAB: I need to find a quiet place and meditate on Berronar’s grace and mercy.

NEMENTAH: I think I will wander among the trees and flowers. I have been too far from nature for too long.

BEAR: I’m going to get a beer.

ARCA: Beer sounds good to me.

USAIN: I’m going to track down this Mayor McCheese or whoever and collect our cash money. After that I was thinking I might try to convince a certain hot news reporter to join me out on the town. That Kalarel dropped a ton of scratch and it’s burning a hole in my pocket. What do you say, girl?

LATYNA [blushing]

An amazing story of courage and adventure. Winterhaven is safe, with thanks to these intrepid heroes. Be sure to thank them if you see them on the street.


Brian Zuniga said...

Wait, was the Underpriest singing a praise song to Orcus to the tune of "Lord I Lift Your Name On High?"

Taran said...

Yeah, we were joking around about that when it happened, but you might have missed it.