The party looked on at infernal clock at their feet. They had deciphered all the runes and drawn them accordingly around the magical device but still had no clue how to manipulate or destroy the clock, their memories still obscured. Again they scoured their minds and slowly recalled the last hours they had experienced…
Born moved past the still weeping man-cleric Bree, and walked back into the hall of secrets deep within the tomb of horrors. The other party members tried to comfort Bree, his mother having died of extreme old age only moments before.
Born ran his hands along a long northern hallway and, like Duchess, noticed several scratch marks as if something heavy had once shouldered it way through. Born saw ahead a small staircase leading up to a large wooden door, and to his right a smaller stone door with three small slots etched into it. Born recognized the door would, like other machinations of Acerak, require weapons to be placed into the stone slot to move. He slipped the stone hammer he found in the mirror room, in one slot and two javelins in the others. Instantly the weapons broke into dust and the door opened. Born explored this smaller passage way and turned a corner. There was another door, and a strange mist seemed to emanate from it’s side. Born felt sleep pull over him and quickly ran back into the main hallway. He called for Berensir and the She-elf appeared moments later.
Berensir detected danger from the misty sealed door and instead decided to help Born open the larger door at the top of the stairway down the main hall. They came face to face with a huge stone mammoth on rollers. Born pushed on the gargantuan stone figure and triggered a trap. The mammoth rolled forward, the party was able jump out of the way except for Bree who would have been killed if Born had not thrown the cleric out of the way, taking the full impact of the mammoth. Born was plowed over and the mammoth trap continued to roll down the hall until it fell into one of the pit traps the party had previously found.
Born lay dying while Bree administered to his wounds.
Meanwhile Berensir opened the smokey door, not fearing the effect and was pummeled by a sleeping gas trap. The elf resisted it’s effects and the party was able to escape down the scratched hallway until the gas dissapated. After an hour of waiting and a short rest, the party went back to the hallway. They seemed to be again trapped until Born found a small crawlspace in the scratched hallway and led the party further down into the tomb.
At this time Valya awoke. She found herself in a prison of stone with no discernible way out. How long had she been unconscious? She only remembered leaning against a wall in the entrance to the tomb and then instantly falling backwards. Carved into the wall in front of her were three stone switches. 70 feet above her she saw a tiled ceiling that matched the floor she stood on. Using her immovable rod she carefully manipulated each switch into the downward position and instantly the floor fell away to a spike pit some 70 feet below her. Valya hung onto her rod for dear life. Her ferret had a minor heart attack.
The party shimmied it’s way through the narrow crawlspace ever downward until it opened up into a normal sized hallway again. A small set of stairs led downwards. Born, ever the vanguard, moved ahead and opened a door he found at the bottom. He peered round the corner to see a huge throne room, ornate jewel encrusted pillars towered up to the high ceiling some 60 feet up. Signs of an ancient battle were present everywhere, rotting bones and destroyed weapons littered the floor and on a dais at the front of the room sat a lich on a throne, sleeping and holding a scepter in one hand and a crown in another.
“Acerak” Born whispered to the others.
Berensir crept closer and then heard something quite different, far off in the distance. Valya, calling for help. Berensir stealthed through the the throne room, careful not to awaken the sleeping lich and found a door on the far wall. She quietly opened the door and crept forward, Valya’s calls sounded louder. Berensir came into another room, an armory of sorts, one with runes carved into the floor and mounted swords and shields on the walls. The elf could make no sense of the runes but could tell they had no direct magical danger in them. She quickly made her way across the armory to another door and past more runes. There she found a fountain room with a large goblin face spouting water. Valya’s quiet voiced echoed from behind it. The fountain head’s mouth was large enough for Berensir to crawl up through but the possible effects of that action weighed heavy on her. Valya again called out and Berensir took a breath and entered the goblin head’s mouth.
Meanwhile Born grew tired of waiting and kicked open the door the whole way, “ACERAK!” he yelled and slammed his hammer into one of the pillars. Instantly the lich awoke and screamed before vanishing. Born’s body floated to the ceiling and four wraiths appeared from the walls to attack, the other party members ran into the room to assist Born, but Bree found she too was suddenly floating to the ceiling. Having died earlier in Acerak’s dungeon she now suffered many of the same effects of her friends and knew somehow..something was still not right within her.
With Berensir seeking Valya, this left only Duchess to fend off the wraiths. The spectral form of Mull appeared out from a wall. His eyes glowing red, the distinct essence of Orcus seemed to surround his mangled body. “Worms!” Mull screamed at the wraiths, “this body serves Orcus completely now and the infernal clock will be his!” Mull charged the other wraiths while Duchess held two more at bay.
Meanwhile Berensir made her way through a labrynth of crawlspaces until she kicked open some flooring and spied Valya far below, still hanging on for dear life and calling for help. The elf had no rope but called down to her friend. With some insanely skilled backflips Valya eventually shambled her way up to Berensir, constantly using the staff of unmoving to anchor herself in space. Berensir helped her friend up into the crawlspace in the ceiling and after a somewhat awkward reunion, they shimmied their way back to the fountain room.
In the throne room Born looked around wildly and noticed several goblin faces with menacing open mouths lined the upper walls, and with every second Born was slowly floating towards one of them. Bree bumped up against him and grasped desperately at the minotaur but to no avail, the cleric was sucked into the green goblin mouth and disappeared. Born quickly tied a rope to a javelin and threw it down into the ground anchoring himself temporarily.
Below the minotaur, Duchess took hit after hit from the Wraiths while Mull ripped two more of them down with his new necromantic powers. Mull then turned to Duchess and aimed his crossbow at the dragonborn. “YOU, you were there. You’ll die with them!”
Berensir and Valya pulled themselves from the fountain head, very wet but otherwise fine. They slowly approached the runes on the floor, eager to join the others but cautious of what dangers may lay in wait, for no room in the tomb was what it seemed. Valya deciphered the runes and sighed, they read:
“I sit on the face of time eternal and watch you make your way. Shall you dally here a while until your hair turns grey? Or shall you pay the blood debt and enter back into the fray?”
“What’s the blood debt?” Valya asked Berensir.
“We can’t wait here forever to find out. We’re needed.” Berensir replied and stepped forward. Instantly the swords and shields mounted on the walls of the armory came to life and surrounded Berensir dancing through the air, and striking at her flesh.
Bree found himself naked again, on top of the tomb’s skull entrance. He knew instantly the few items he had salvaged had once again been magically teleported to Acerak’s inner crypt. “Damnit!” he yelled and waited.
Born cast a thorn spell down onto the wraiths attacking Duchess below but it did little damage. He then turned and pushed one of his javelins through the green goblin’s mouth that Bree had disappeared through.
On the other end Bree knew the deal and grabbed it. Born pulled on the spear and Bree was partially pulled back through. An attacking wraith, on the throne room floor, took notice and slashed at Born’s anchor rope, in an instant both Born and Bree were back on the hilltop. The portal way now closed. Each naked male looked at each other awkwardly….it was weird.
Mull shot bolt after bolt at Duchess but the paladin dodged them easily, while fearing her wraith attackers with her holy symbols.
Meanwhile Berensir valiantly fought through the flying swords and with Valya’s help destroyed one after another, shattering them into thousands of pieces in mid-air.
Outside the tomb Born nodded to Bree, the two knew they would have to run back inside, making their way through the labyrinth to reach their friends. Born shifted into horse form and Bree jumped on his back; with a whinny the two raced back into the tomb, smashing through hallways and taking a lot of damage.
Berensir shot the last flying sword and raced forward with Valya to aid Duchess. Just at that moment Bree and Born charged into the room, naked and bloody but alive. Bree jumped off Born’s back and Born, in horse form, charged Mull, knocking the possessed pawn of Orcus into a pillar – that instantly sent him floating to the ceiling. Mull struggled to clutch at something but within seconds was sucked out through the goblin’s mouth and disappeared.
Bree and Valya struck at one of the wraiths with spells and weapons. While Born and Duchess attacked the other. Soon both phantasms were destroyed.
“I think a rest is in order”. Duchess gasped, trying to catch her breath. As the party took a short break Bree and Born investigated the rest of the room. On the walls of the throne room they saw frescoes of Acerak enslaving all the races. And one in particular painting, was the wheel of Law encircling the Infernal clock. Born studied the throne where the lich had sat and saw his crown and scepter were still there. Near the throne was a wooden sarcophagus.
The scepter held a golden orb on one end and silver tip on the other. Valya picked up the crown and said, “See Born, it looks great on you” She placed the crown on Born’s head. Born tried to remove it and found it wouldn’t budge. The others found a few simple weapons, scraps of cloth and armor pieces to gird themselves with, though they missed their gear desperately. Only Valya had retained her items of power.
Berensir opened the wooden sarcophagus and saw a mummified human. Bree sensed the corpse wasn’t Acerak. And Valya saw two jewels had been placed on the mummy’s eyes. One ruby and one blue diamond. Berensir pocketed the ruby and Bree took the blue diamond. Instantly the mummy slowly moaned and sat up. Without a second’s hesitation Born smashed the mummy’s skull in with the scepter, and it fell back into the sarcophagus again.
“It’s like what a mole, you gotta be quick” Born said.
Bree used her arcana on blue diamond and her eyes widened. They had found a gem of wishing – a very rare and extremely powerful gemstone that would grant one wish only. The party debated for some time on what to wish for. They finally decided to wish for maximum power (in effect giving them max level stats and abilities) a mist swirled round and suddenly exploded, most of the party members were thrown back and when they regained their composure they found they had all been weakened (to level 1 stats).
The jewel was in fact a CURSED gem of wishing. Acerak’s laughter echoed through the chamber.
“We’ll never beat him now, we’ve lost our weapons, our skills, our abilities…we’re dead.” Bree moaned.
“Actually I’m about the same” Born laughed, and tried to pull the crown from his head again, “except for this stupid crown”.
Born turned the scepter round and wedged the silver point under the crown to try and pry the head piece off, instantly he turned to ash. Born was no more.
The party gathered up Born’s ashes. They knew they would have to make the trek out of the tomb again if they were to resurrect their friend. They realized in this case the enchanted pillars could be of use, and stripping themselves of their weapons, clothes and gear, the party floated their way to the goblin mouth and magically outside of the tomb. They placed Born’s ashes on Felabri’s rune and waited.
“We’re running out of time,” Duchess noted. “The tomb will sink and the lich will return. He must have Bob’s amulet by now.”
“We’re still in this timeline though, nothing’s changed yet.” Bree noted, “There’s still hope.” After a few hours passed Born’s body reconstituted and he sat up.
“That’s new.” the minotaur groaned.
The party then debated how best to move forward in such a weakened state. The idea then came to them..Born though cursed by Acerak for dying in the tomb like Bree, was no longer floating, all his other afflictions were gone. By dying he had resurrected at full life, abilities and skill levels (basically the DM had to pull a fast one so the party could finish this adventure).
The party knew what they had to do. They had to die if they wanted to live. And if they died outside of the tomb, Acerak’s curse wouldn’t be on them. One by one, the resurrected Born snapped the necks of each party member and laid their bodies on the rune. Six hours later the party awoke. Free from the gemstone’s curse.
As they rose they saw the giant skull entrance began to sink below the swamp waters. They rushed back within and the skull mouth closed right behind them before it sank into the mire. The party was now trapped in the tomb of horrors.
Within an hour they made it back to their meager gear and redressed. They moved forward into Acerak’s treasure room. There they found a huge pile of gold. A stone sarcophagus, a sealed and smoldering brazier and small copper skull. Berensir and Bree investigated and sensed a fire demon lay in wait within the brazier. They avoided going near it. Though Berensir wanted to pocket some of the gold and investigate the stone sarcophagus the party talked her out of it. Born found a hidden mithril door behind a nearby gargoyle statue and sensed the door itself was sentient. Within the door was skull shaped hole. Bree sensed the copper skull itself was enchanted and dangerous.
Born found another journal entry from the lost party of heroes and gave it to the others. He also sensed a presence in his mind…the spirit of Tsung Kahn. He shared this with no one.
Born and Valya worked together to move the copper skull within the door hole without touching it (using their weapons), and were able to open the door without incident. This led them to another dead end hallway. Berensir spotted a small switch on the floor and Valya sent her ferret to activate it. A spiral staircase in the floor lowered to the depths below.
As Bree moved forward with the party she saw in her mind the words “YOU ARE MINE NOW”, flash and she realized the extent of Acerak’s curse.
“Our souls, Born, we died here, we’ve been afflicted more than the others, because he has a piece of our souls…when we died here, the lich took a piece of our souls!”
The minotuar knew Bree was right. He had felt off since being resurrected, “He’ll have them in a phylactery. Liches love phylacteries. When we face him, we must destroy the damnable things!” he answered.
Again Born heard the whispers of Tsung Kahn in his mind. He had secretly found the warlords journal a day before in the cathedral room, and during rests had read the wisdom on the pages. He knew the party was still weak but if he saw a chance to gain the upper hand against Acerak, against any of his foes…Born knew he had to take it.
The party made their way down the spiral staircase into a roughly hewn stone room. Born found another marking in the small chamber on the floor. One that would fit a skull. With some effort the party retrieved the copper skull and placed into the floor hole. They were able to turn the skull correctly and the way forward slid open. Bree immediately sensed Acerak’s real presence was very close.
The party made their way into another chamber with anterooms of treasure. Born and Duchess investigated them but sensed a great evil lie on the piles of gold and jewels, and decided not to touch them.
Berensir moved the party forward into the final large chamber. It was not well adorned or bejeweled. It was simply hewn from stone and at the end of was a wooden coffin. A jade skull rested on top of it. Bree reached out with her mind towards skull and suddenly the skull rose into the air and a construct of Acerak formed around it.
“You dare enter my tomb! Steal from me what is mine! I have already beaten you, I already OWN YOU!” The lich’s voice echoed into their minds. “I have the amulet, I have the clock, and soon my full form will return. I will snuff you from existence and bend the Wheel of Law to MY will! Time to DIE!”
Acerak’s form multiplied and four grand liches now encircled the party. Bree was lifted from the ground by Acerak’s power and thrown back into the passageway. Acerak then turned and blasted Born into a wall with a fierball.
Valya ran up to the grand lich and slammed her staff into his side. Acerak was caught off guard and stumbled back. Two of Acerak’s wraith appeared from the shadows and tackled Bree but he deftly dodged their assault. Berensir shot at the Lich over and over, each time an arrow destroyed one of the lich’s copies until only the true Acerak remained.
Duchess struck at the lich and landed one blow after another while Born, who lacked all weapons, grabbed the coffin and threw it at the lich. The wooden sarcophagus passed through Acerak and it shattered behind. him.
“It’s not in there! Find the phylacteries!” Born yelled to the others.
Berensir spotted two glass skulls hanging from Acerak’s belt and knew those had to be their target. She shot two arrows into Acerak’s side and the belt fell to his feet.
“No!’ screamed the lich.
Meanwhile Duchess turned to help Bree in the hallway. Using her holy symbol she feared both wraiths away from Bree and Bree rushed forward to join the others. Using mage hand Bree grasped the belt with the phylacteries but Acerak instantly countered with his own mage hand spell.
The belt hovered in the air between the two magic users but the Lich’s power was greater and the belt with the skull phylacteries flew into Acerak’s bone grasp. Born grappled the lich from behind while Berensir let two arrows fly into Acerak’s side. Bree pummeled him with magic missles until the lich dropped the belt again.
Berensir jumped for the fallen belt of phylacteries but Acerak opened a dimensional portal moving the belt 20 feet away. Valya used the only tool she had, her staff of unmoving, and flung at it belt smashing though one of phylacteries and pinning the belt to the far wall.
“NO!” the lich again screamed and turned to attack Valya.
Meanwhile Duchess fought off one of the dark wraiths but the other moved past her and in several fast slashes, cut down Bree from behind. Bree once again lay dying. With a quick swipe of her weapon Duchess finished one wraith and flung herself at the other, standing over her fallen comrade.
Acerak cast cloud kill on the party as he shifted about the room, desperately trying to reach his remaining phylactery, he could drain the soul within to restore himself. He shifted towards the defiant Valya, who stood in his way and the lich cast the most powerful spell he knew, finger of death. Valya waited for the pain to come but the spell fizzled.
“Too Weak!” the lich construct screamed as Berensir shot a perfectly timed arrow into the remaining skull phylactery. The glass skull shattered and Acerak’s construct fell apart. Only the floating jade skull of the construct remained.
“You’ve only killed a piece of me. I will return and I WILL FIND YOU! I have the amulet! I will find a way!” the lich screamed through the jade skull.
The skull began to slowly spin as green rays shot out from it’s eyes. Bree, feeling strangely at peace, knew her soul had been restored. Born also felt whole again. The party looked away as the skull exploded in a flash of green light and suddenly the heroes felt themselves falling…until they knew no more.
The party looked at each other in the pit. That was how they’d come to be there. The journey had been long, lives had been changed or lost entirely, and the lich’s control over the temple had been shattered, but still they had lost. They had fought, bled and died for nothing.
“We never got the amulet” Duchess sighed as she watched Bree nurse her wounds, “We’re trapped and the damn lich will still break through into our world.”
“No..we have the clues..we can remember the clues, we still have them all..we haven’t lost anything” Valya beamed.
“She’s right,” Bree noted, “We’re sitting on the infernal clock, even without Bob’s amulet I can make it work..with my bloodline I can manipulate it.”
The party poured over the notes and slowly movement by movement, they pushed the one hand of the clock face to point at each drawn rune.
“One more movement” Bree said as she slowly moved the clock hand one final time.
And in that instant Born saw his chance. Rushing up to the clock hand, he pushed Bree aside and slammed the clock hand into it’s final position..
“Born wait!” Bree screamed but it was too late. Time itself shifted. Like the World storm before it, realities intermingled and time went backwards.
The party’s gear was restored. Their bodies were restored, Felabri was restored to her home and most importantly, Bob’s amulet was no longer in Acerak’s control. Light and space warped around them….and time was altered permanently. The infernal clock cracked and exploded….and the party..
Found themselves on the speeding wagon racing through the box canyon. Honest Bob manned the back ballista as the rest of the party members held on and directed the horses. Born saw his brother Vital once again chasing them on horseback, surrounded by his men also in pursuit.
“I’ll get the archway, we’ll block em’ off!” Bob shouted to the others. He fired but the missile missed and the party was surrounded by Vital and his men within seconds. Vital raised his hand and shattered the wagon. WIth a word he flattened the party to the ground.
The party struggled against Vital’s magic to no avail, they couldn’t move. Vital got off his mount and walked over to Princess Corvyre.
“You’ve caused me enough trouble Princess.” Vital said and grabbed her by the throat and snapped her neck in an instant. Her body crumpled to the ground.
“And you…heroes,” Vital snickered, “know you’ve done me a great favor. A boon I will repay by letting you live. You all did what I could not. By destroying the Lich’s clock you stopped the one true adversary my master faced, and allowed me time to find the way to the wheel’s location and the door that readies to open.”
One of Vital’s men walked forward with a bound Benegrin. The gnome spat at Vital, “I’ll never help open the way for Orcus!”, Benegrin kicked but was instantly gagged and pulled back.
Vital laughed, “Orcus? That worm? No..the wheel of law will spin, the war will continue and doorway WILL open, but it will open for this world’s true ruler, BAPHOMET!” Vital walked up to Bob and ripped the amulet from his throat.
“Such a little thing..but still this could be useful.” the sorcerer then waved his hand and a portal opened. His men entered with their gear, horses and a bound Benegrin. Before Vital stepped through he turned to Born, “Come and find me brother, come and find me when you’re ready!”
Vital disappeared through and the portal was gone. Instantly the party could move again. Born kicked furiously at the dirt, “Vital!” he screamed. The others looked to the fallen princess.
“I must carry my sister home,” Duchess said and gently lifted the princess in her arms, “Prince Ottman should at least know, perhaps somehow he can still end this war.”
The party slowly moved out of the box canyon and over a rise to see…a thousand bloodthirsty warriors stand at attention. Their warlord leader, turned to face the party, it was none other than Tsung Kahn – restored and ripped from the past. The warlod yelled to his army, “Bow To your new Kahn! Born! Kahn!”
Born’s eyes widened, the warlord approached him. "You’ve ripped us from the past, from our fates, you heeded my words and now you, Born are our leader. Tsung removed his headdress and placed it onto Born’s head and then bowed. Below them spread across the valley, a thousand savage warriors chanted in unison, BORN KAHN! BORN KAHN! BORN KAHN!
A dark smile spread across Born’s face.
The party stared at the minotaur and knew despite all that had been restored, Born was different…whether that change was for the better or the worse, only time would tell.