Chapter 44: Deepest Guk

Loral's head swam with the clues and rumors he had heard as he and his traveling companions walked through the upper caverns of the Froglok city of Guk. He had heard of a curse of ancient evil and of the Grozmok stone but his pondering became circular as they walked. Llyan the ranger was in front with Stonehewer the dwarven paladin, Juror the barbarian shaman, Loral the elven cleric, Kaylessa the elven enchantress, and Criket the Vah Shir beastlord in the rear. Criket's warder, a five hundred pound striped cat, followed behind to make sure no beasts would take them by surprise.

Loral's thoughts of these rumors ceased when he came to the boarded passage that led to the deepest caverns of Guk. It had been blocked by the Frogloks themselves after their scouting parties came screaming back out or did not come back at all. Stonehewer turned to the rest of the party, smiled, and kicked in the boarded up cavern entrance. It was a typical dwarven conclusion to the topic of whether or not they should continue.

A foul air rose from the passage. Strong winds howled through the tunnels. The scraping and cracking of the deeper tunnels unnerved the party. Finding strength within each other, the party continued into the complex network of caverns.

Stonehewer's cry of surprise and the twang of Llyan's bow were Loral's first warning of danger. He saw the sagging grey-skinned creature crawling towards them with long fingered hands and webbed feet. Its long infected tongue lolled out, dragging on the ground behind it. Llyan's arrow had burst one of the milky dead eyes of the beast. Yellow liquid dripped down its grey rotted cheek like a broken egg yoke. The smell gagged Loral, making him stop in the middle of a prayer and ruining the spell he began to cast. Loral saw bones tearing through the dead flesh of the beast. There was no doubt that they faced the crawling hungry dead of Deepest Guk.

Another of Llyan's arrows ripped into the beasts throat before Criket's warder roared in, tearing the beast apart with four inch claws. The shock of the beast wore off Stonehewer. The paladin took three menacing steps forward and with a powerful overhand cut, severed the beast in two.

For twelve hours the party battled the undead minions of Guk, some rotting husks of recent adventurers, some ancient skeletal remains of Guk's ancestors. Occationally a ghastly figure would form through the walls, spirits of the tormented dead of Guk, and rake at the party with ethereal claws. Crossing into a large cavern of vine covered stone and green pools of bacteria, the party felt something else.

A hissing vibration filled the room. The party felt it in their teeth and lower parts of their mind, the parts that will pull a hand out of a fire without thinking. The hiss got louder and one of the strangest beast they had seen rounded one of the caverns corners. It floated in the air about four feet off the ground. It had a spherical bony shell surrounding a huge eye that stared angrily at them. Tentacles, some ending in hideous mouths with needle-like teeth, others ending with sharp jagged blades, wiggled angrily at the party. The hiss lowered its pitch and began to shake the party's nerves, paralyzing them.

The creature floated calmly over to the elven maiden, Kaylessa, preparing three of the vile mouths to tear into her soft skin. With his remaining stamina, Llyan broke from the paralyzing grip of the eye's mental attack, drew his thin blade, and stabbed it in the most likely of targets, dead center in the huge eye. The Oculus burst, spraying the party with fluid. An inhuman primal scream filled their mind, reaching pitches beyond the capabilities of the mind to comprehend. They fell to the ground in agony but as the thrashes of the eye began to slow, the pain went away. Soon, it was dead and the party stood staring at horrifying creature with Llyan's blade protruding from its black pupal.

Oblivious to the battles above him the lich-priest, Bhotea, sat huddled over a web shrouded tome. For the better part of a year he had researched this dark work. Its words and runes twisted and reformed the more he read. His body had begun to decay since reading the dark book, feeding its evil, but the priest no longer cared. His longtime traveling companion, once a Guktan Paladin of Mithanial Marr, lay on a stone alter dissected and disemboweled. He was a small sacrifice in the pursuit of power, thought Bhotea.

A blazing flash of light in the corridor ahead of him tore the lich's attention from his beloved book. He did not expect to see what he saw. A dwarf, armored in shining blue plate armor, was stained with the black blood of the undead minions that shared this cavern with the lich. His skin was ashen from the ethereal wounds of dozens of ghastly spectres but his eyes burned with a blazing life the lich no longer knew.

Stonehewer charged in holding his twin-bladed sword high. The undead priest raised his hand and a blast of magical energy sent Stonehewer crashing to the ground. Two arrows from Llyan's bow streaked in but a wave of the lich's hand turned them into dust before they reached him. Juror blew a small wisp of dust from his hand. The cloud grew into millions of tiny insects that roared around the lich. The lich chanted three words and black tentacles burst from the floor around the barbarian, tearing into his legs and dragging him to the ground. Criket and her warder both rushed in but were repelled by the same barrier that stopped Llyan's arrows. The lich-priest grasped out with his clawed hand and made a fist in the air. Criket came off the ground, crushed within a huge invisible hand. Loral heard Criket's bones snapping as she floated in the air a few feet from the lich.

Kaylessa chanted her own spell. A tiny black ball formed in her hand. It flew from the elven enchantress and smashed into the lich's invisible barrier with the sound of shattered glass. Criket collapsed into a heap on the ground. Stonehewer, understanding the significance of what happened, rose and approached the small undead wizard. He cut powerfully and the lich's decomposing head flew into the air followed by a gyser of black sour blood.

Two days later the party sat outside the Wayfarer's Southern Ro camp. Criket, now fully healed, sent her cat after Llyan who ran merrily in wolf form. Juror and Kaylessa were speaking with one of the Wayfarers while Stonehewer tried with frustration to polish off the black acidic blood of the lich from his silver blade. Loral, a small black-skinned journal in his hand, wrote of their adventure and his thoughts.

"I do not know what the Wayfarer's want, but I know that no evil such as the liches of Deepest Guk should remain." Loral penned carefully. "While their motivations are unknown the Wayfarer's instruction has aided the forces of good. Perhaps I was wrong about them."