The Adventures of Karnus

Written by Alastair

"Once, a long time ago in the Land we now know as Karameikos, there existed a mighty Empire, ruled by a race of beings known as Hutaakans. The sons and daughters of Pflarr were wise and intelligent, and brought civilisation to the lands around them. They interacted with the local Traldar peoples and taught them art, science and Magic. At the peak of their power they were the masters of all three, and never was there a mightier Hutaakan mage than Xapohorteq, High Wokan of the Hutaakan Imperium. Xaphorteq lived in a time when Hutaakan power was waning, and foresaw that the only way to keep his art alive was to pass on his knowledge to his Human apprentices.

Thus for his most beloved student he created The Staff of Hutaaka, such that he who wielded it would be the mightiest of the Human spellcasters of that era. Yet when the time came that the Hutaakans must shut themselves away in order to survive, Xaphorteq remained in the world, and knowledge of him passed from Mystara.

Of his apprentice little is known, he disappeared shortly after he was given the staff, and no records of his name were ever kept. The Staff of Hutaaka itself was lost along with him, or so was thought...."

Extract from the journals of Karnus Perdissium

They had survived. The valiant efforts of all of the party had contributed towards their return from the Lost Valley of Hutaaka. They had fought undead creatures, rogue Magicians, twisted High Priestesses and even a thousand year old embodiment of ultimate evil.

But the rewards were great. For all that they had suffered the five companions had earned much. The lost treasures of the Hutaakan Empire were theirs, and among this Treasure there was one item of immense Magical might, an Ashwood Staff, laid round with carvings and runes, and atop it, carved in acute detail in platinum was the head of a Hutaakan.

Such was the power contained therein that when a detection spell was cast upon the staff, it almost blinded the spellcaster. The staff had by chance fallen into the hands of the Party's eldest Mage, Karnus Perdissium, yet he had no idea how to tap the power stored within it. When he handled the staff, he could sense it's energies hidden just beyond his reach.

Fortunately for Karnus he had a wealth of scrolls taken from the Hutaakan libraries, and upon the company's return to Specularum, he set about uncovering the mystery of the Staff.

The scrolls revealed the history of the Hutaakans and the legend of the staff to Karnus, but spoke not one word on how to activate the artefact. The texts did hint, however, that the Mage who created the staff, Xaphorteq, had based himself, not with the rest of the Hutaakans in Byxaata, but by a lake somewhere, in the settlement referred to as Kizraaka, the Home of Hutaakan Magic. To Karnus' growing frustration, he could not determine where this ancient town could be, but he resolved to find out. If the secret of the staff lay anywhere, it was there!

However, Karnus was distracted from his search by another magical item. The wand of polymorphing that he had acquired recently had been effecting him deeply. Anytime he attempted to use it he was placed into a deep trance, and his sleep was filled with fleeting images...

"The dreams are coming more and more frequently, and always the same, I'm flying through the air, as light as a feather, I try to shield my eyes with my hands, but discover I have wings instead! We fly high (I say we yet I know not where I get the impression of two people, certainly I am alone in the dream), and as the landscape flits by beneath us we approach a great expanse of water. Then suddenly I fall, like a rock, and hit the water. I sputter and cough, and feel that this must be my end, but then find I can breath normally, and swim like a fish.... quite reasonable when I realise that I am a fish!

Then the shore comes and I am running along on all fours, flitting through the undergrowth, until I come to a clearing in which there stands a beautiful tree, but a branch is missing, savagely broken off, and the tree is sad... I swear, if I don't solve this puzzle soon I shall go mad!"

The Quest of Lost Dreams

So Karnus decided that he must set off to the lake he saw in his mind, feeling that he had been there before, and guided by the guess that the Lake of Lost Dreams was where he should head for.

So, one morning, Karnus swiftly said goodbye to his companions, saddled up his horse, Magic Missile, and left the Flying Ferret and Specularum far behind as he travelled towards the Rugalov river, which he intended to follow until it joined with the lake. For the first couple of days the journey was uneventful, but one night, Karnus was alarmed to find the wand hovering in front of him. It flared with magical light, and flew off into the forest, Karnus swiftly following it upon his loyal steed. Unfortunately for the Blue robed Mage, he was soon lost within the depths of the forest, with neither wand nor road in sight!

What was in sight, however, were twin points of light, quite a few in fact, surrounding him, beginning to chatter in a crude gutter like tongue. Karnus immediately recognised the brutal language, that of the Goblins. The young Mage called to the foul creatures in the tongue of their overlords, the Hobgoblins, and commanded them to turn away, but the evil things continued to close in. Karnus was at a loss, he could not unleash his recently developed Fireball spell, for the goblins were dispersed around him, and he had not prepared himself for such an encounter.

Discretion proved the better part of valour; Karnus wheeled Magic Missile around and bolted through the undergrowth, fleeing as fast as he could spur his horse on. Fortunately, Karnus was an expert horseman and through some brilliant manoeuvres managed to escape the following horde. He came across a clearing, wherein he found the wand, lying there in the centre. Karnus couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he could have sworn that the wand looked , well almost smug. Picking up the troublesome item, Karnus set off again, towards the rising sun, where he knew lay the river that would guide him to the lake. The next day's travel was uneventful, except for an incident with some bears, very intent on gobbling his spell book, and Karnus soon found the Rugalov River, which he would follow northwards.

Another encounter with a goblin raiding party soon ensued, Karnus was awakened by the wand, just in time to see a bunch of angry goblins emerging from the woods, as well as an even greater foe, a Dire Wolf. Immediately acting, Karnus channelled his energies into summoning forth bolts of pure magic, which lanced away from him and struck two of the foul creatures dead, but the other goblins had closed and were even now in attacking range.

Karnus had no choice but to battle the foul creatures, and quickly invoked a shield spell, which surrounded him with a magical barrier. Then the wolf was upon him. Karnus ducked and dived, but could find no weakness in the goblins defences. They had him pressed against the river, he faced either death by drowning, or death by goblin blades! But the plucky young Mage had an ace up his sleeve, a fully working wand of Polymorphing! Laughing, Karnus pointed the wand and willed to turn the Dire Wolf into a Frog (he was always a one for the classics). Karnus watched as.... absolutely nothing happened. The wand sat there just like a stick!!

In desperation, Karnus summoned one of his most frequently used spells, one to turn him invisible; to the goblins he simply faded from view. Karnus ducked between the foul things and ran to the edge of the forest, turning, he decided to unleash his most powerful spell, he would consume his attackers in a powerful Fireball. Incanting the spell broke his invisibility, and just as the goblins turned to him in surprise he launched his spell! In a spectacular explosion the Goblin's blasted corpses were flung off into the forest and the river, the charred and stunned Dire Wolf, still alive, staggered forth, only to be felled by the hooves of Karnus' loyal steed. Stunned from the battle, Karnus turned to thank Magic Missile, then scolded the wand for it's lack of co-operation. The wand was having none of it. In a flash of blue light, Magic Missile was transformed from a magnificent horse, to a frog. If it was possible for a stick to snigger the wand was doing it, or so Karnus would later swear.

Drained, and at a loss, Karnus slumped against a tree and fell into a deep sleep, Magic Missile jumped onto his chest and curled up for the night.

Upon waking the next morning the Mage was relieved to find that his horse was once again his horse, so he saddled up and again set out Northwards, after breakfast and time to rememorise his spells, of course. During the day, Karnus encountered a beaten path, leading off the river. Seized by an urge to explore the path, the blue robed Mage, turned up the track, and soon came upon a large hillock, covered in trees, with a gaping tunnel like entrance.

Leaving Magic Missile tethered outside, he set into the tunnel, light in hand, but was soon stopped by a wailing sound, enticing him to return whence he came, or he would be destroyed. Now, by this time, Karnus had been through quite a lot, and really wasn't taking any more, so he braced himself and stepped through the horrific images being shown to him. Proceeding down the tunnel, he came upon a large chamber, which had a lot of gold in it. A LOT of gold. Oh, and a great big Green Dragon, but there was also a lot of gold. "Hang on", thought the young Mage, " a lot of gold and a GREEN DRAGON!!"

Its head was longer than Karnus was tall, it's mighty body stretched back beyond the light of the lantern, it's teeth evily reflecting the light being held by the little intruder.

The Great Beast's mouth opened, and Karnus thought his end was upon him, but the creature simply said, in a deep and commanding voice, "Can I help you?"

"Previously I had only heard of Dragons from my Master and my adventuring companions, yet I was not prepared for the magnificence and terror of the form that now towered over me. I realised then that I had no hope of overcoming such a creature in my weakened state, and I had to use my wit and charm in order to escape the inevitable."

So Karnus attempted to persuade the Dragon to release him and let him go about his way, swearing never to reveal the location of his lair. The Dragon, however had other plans, more accurately, Dinner plans. Karnus had his back to the wall, and attempted to escape using another Invisibility spell, but the Dragon, being skilled in the use of Magic, was able to break through Karnus' illusion. The young Mage had no choice, the mighty staff he carried was useless, and his own imbued magical powers would not be capable of stopping such a large beast, he pleaded with the wand that had caused all this trouble, begging it to do something, anything to get him out of here.

Meanwhile the great Dragon had found the plucky adventurer, and was about to eat him when Karnus offered a near priceless necklace he carried in return for his life. The wyrm took the jewellery gratefully, then turned to devour our hero!

As the great jaws clamped down, Karnus felt a strange tingle about himself, his flesh rippling and changing, suddenly he was flying up and out of the lair, easily dodging the Dragon's angry sweeps.

Then he was free, a cry of anger rising from beneath him. He was flying high above the countryside, just like in the fateful dreams he had been suffering from. Unfortunately, he also had no control over the journey.

Northwards he flew, over the trees, he dived into the Lake of Lost Dreams and became a fish, but while he was under the water, he felt a strange presence, a great malevolent entity, watching him with evil intent.

But Karnus made it to the far shore of the lake intact, and ran for a while as a fox, leaping through the undergrowth, until finally he lost consciousness....

Karnus awoke, relieved to find himself human once again, but utterly lost within the forest. In his hand was the wand, looking like nothing but a lifeless stick. It had given the last of it's power to save him.

After breakfast, he wandered for a while, and by chance came across an old, rarely walked path, leading off to the north and south. Deciding on a whim to head south, Karnus came across a beautiful grove, with a crystal clear pool in the centre. To Karnus' wonder, there were tiny creatures floating and flitting in the air, and as he reached to touch the surface of the pool, he felt his weariness and wounds healed.

Turning from the beautiful spot, Karnus struck out back along the path northwards. The walk was pleasant and opened out into a vision he had seen before only in his dreams. In the centre of the clearing stood a tree that stood magnificently tall, and would have been quite beautiful, had it not seemed so drained, so sad, so soulless.

Karnus strode up to the tree and was just about to touch it when a voice called out from behind. Turning, Karnus looked upon a venerable old Elf standing by the edge of the glade. The Elf introduced himself and explained that for many years he had been guarding the tree and awaiting the return of his beloved.

Suddenly understanding, Karnus turned and touched the wand to the broken part of the tree. The wand melded with the branch and suddenly the tree was infused with a new life, the leaves lifted and small flowers blossomed. The tree seemed to radiate warmth and power.

Karnus turned to look at the Elf, when suddenly he felt a touch upon his shoulder. Looking round he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon, a Dryad, one of the mystical creatures who lived within the forests, melded as part of a tree.

The dryad explained that, many years ago, a young Mage had come seeking knowledge about the Hutaakans, and attempting to find a way to reach their realm. He had broken off a branch from the tree and used it to make a wand of Polymorphing. The Dryad had had no choice, in order to save herself she had had to transfer her essence into the wand.

And so, after all those years lying on the road to Hutaaka, she had been found by Karnus, who she realised would help her return home after so many years of torment. Before returning to the tree to regain her energies, the Dryad awarded Karnus something that had been in her roots for many years, a scroll containing a Clairvoyance spell, Karnus thanked the Dryad for her gift, and allowed her to retreat to her sanctuary.

He spent some time dining with the Old Elf, and a couple of Centaurs who had found Magic Missile and brought him to Karnus. The Elf, intrigued by Karnus' Staff, gave him a piece of parchment that, he said, mapped out the position of the old Hutaakan settlements, but it was incomplete; it required a certain magical thread run through it. Karnus smiled to himself. He already possessed such an item, taken from Hutaaka only the month before.

The following morning Karnus returned to the road and set out home. It was a relatively uneventful journey, except for some bandits which were easily disposed of, and the blue robed Mage arrived back in Specularum in good time, one step closer to unlocking the power of the Staff of Hutaaka.

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