Nocturnal XIV

After taking care of a couple of wolves guarding the entrance, they stopped outside the cave to review strategy. "Minx is here to get the sword, and nothing else. You and I are taking out the necromancers," Uzgash announced. "So she should probably go invisible right away."

Clark pointed out what they'd learned in the deadlands. An invisible ally is in danger from their own side. "What if I hit her with silence, and she can't re-cast?"

"I'll stay behind you," Minx responded. "Just keep your spell-casting pointed forward, and there won't be a problem. I'll need you up front to open any doors, or I'll lose my cover."

"I thought you had a ring of shadows for that. Didn't you wear it?" Clark asked.

"No, I'm using detect life and night-eye rings instead. I don't want any skeletons or zombies creeping up on me. And if they've trapped the place, invisibility doesn't help with those."

"That should work," Uzgash agreed. "So I want you, Clark, to prevent them using spells against us. I can handle any minions they manage to summon, and any creatures that might be sharing the place. But if they start flinging spells, I'm getting behind you."

The first part of the cave contained undead. Mostly skeletons, including a pesky archer that targetted Clark as soon as they entered his part of the cave. Or maybe he was aiming at Minx, who was hiding behind him. Whichever it was, Clark's shield was collecting arrows at quite a rate until Uzgash reached the skeleton. Clark wished there was an enchantment for reflecting arrows.

They had a choice of side-passages, and not much information to decide between them. Noctunal had sketched a map of the part of the cave that showed in the crystal ball, but it didn't seem to match any part of the current level. And they hadn't met any necromancers yet.

"Let's try this way," Minx suggested. "It smells worse, so that's probably an indication of necromancy."

Clark reluctantly agreed to Minx scouting ahead using her invisibility. Only the necromancers would be able to detect her, and she'd dispel her invisibility and run back to the others as soon as she saw anything being summoned. That seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction for them.

The smell was coming from zombies, but they weren't summoned ones. No necromancers in that part of the cave, either.

They went back up the ladder, leaving the zombies to themselves, and tried another direction.

Clark and Minx were both using detect life rings, but they didn't have a lot of range. Enough that they wouldn't blunder into enemies around the corners, but it was likely that the necromancers would detect them first, if they suspected anyone was coming. So that meant staying really quiet. Clark was glad that Uzgash was using enchanted clothes instead of amor, and not just because of the delightful view. Plate or even chain is hard to sneak in successfully, and sneak wasn't her strong suit.

Clark was in the lead, as his spell reflection made him the best candidate, so he was the first to detect the pink glows of three figures around the nex corner. He stopped to see how they moved. It was about the only way to tell a zombie or skeleton from a necromancer. None of them had the lurching gait of the undead, so it was likely they'd found their targets at last.

A few whispers set their plans in motion. Clark crept forward and targeted the middle one with his new silence spell. They were all close together, so it should affect all three. As it struck, Uzgash ran forward, swinging her axe. The necromancers all wasted time trying to summon, and two of them fell to Uzgash's assault before the final one could fire off a spell. His fireball was aimed at Clark, with predictably fatal results when it reflected back at him.

Minx faded back into view. She'd gone around the wall to the chamber exit to check that nobody was coming from further in. "Nothing in range," she reported. "And I believe I can detect further than they'd be able to hear. That fight was a bit noisy, but I think we got away with it."

The next two rooms went much the same, but the final one was another matter. Clark could see the chest and the bolt of cloth over in a corner. He could also see that the hooded necromancer was carrying a staff. That meant that he'd be able to use it even when Clark hit him with silence.

"I'll aim the silence at him," he whispered to Uzgash. "Hopefully that will draw his attention, and he'll fire the staff at me first. But the others are well-scattered, and I probably can't get them all with one cast."

"Then I'll have to be quicker than normal with my axe," she replied. "It may be worth going berserk. That should mean it takes less whacks to kill one, and I can move on to the next sooner."

Minx was detailed to go grab the cloth bolt. "Stay away from the battle," Clark told her. "That corner's out of the line of fire at present, but things are likely to change rapidly".

Minx nodded, and cast her invisibility. They gave her a few seconds to get clear of them, and then Clark stood up and fired his silence spell at the adept with the staff. Uzgash cast her berserk power and ran at another of the necromancers, close enough to the adept that he'd probably be silenced, but far enough that the adept wouldn't think she was targetting him.

It worked. The adept's staff fired at Clark, and the spell reflected. Except that nothing happened. Clark was puzzled for a moment, and then it dawned on him that the necromancer had just tried to silence him! Uzgash's axe made it a moot point just seconds later, and she and Clark closed on the last of the necromancers just as the silence spell dissipated. Clark got close enough to be spattered with blood as a berserk-driven axe sliced the man in two.

"Sorry about that," an apologetic and rather wobbly Uzgash said. "Berserking makes me stronger, but it leaves me dizzy, and not very accurate. I just aim at the middle of 'em and hope."

Minx appeared by the chest and announced that she'd got the sword. "At least I assume I have. I cast the spell on the cloth bolt and it disappeared."

"Check the chest, in case the sword's in there. If it isn't, we can be pretty sure it's in the bag."

"I already opened the chest. I am a thief, you know. Nothing but a bit of gold and a potion of restore agility."

"Give that potion here," Uzgash demanded. "I need something to stop my head spinning."

"It helped, but I still feel a bit wobbly," she continued after downing the contents.

Clark put an arm round her - to steady her, he said. "Women are supposed to be a bit wobbly," he told her. "Or at least, parts of them are."