The Adventures of Karnus - Part Two


Written by Alastair

The Ruined City

After his adventures in the Dymrak Forest, Karnus rested for a while in Specularum, convincing Threy to relinquish the magical thread that would unlock the map of the Hutaakan Empire. Eventually the surly cleric capitulated and Karnus was able to apply the thread to the ancient parchment.

The newly created map showed Karnus where each of the ancient Hutaakan settlements had been, but his attention was dragged in particular to the North, for there, just outside Threshold, was a settlement on the edge of a lake... the ancient town of Kizraaka.

The companions had a mind to venture Northwards in any case, Lana wished to return to Threshold in particular. So it was decided that they would travel to Threshold and from there Karnus would set out to retrieve the knowledge that would unlock his staff.

The journey was uneventful and soon Threshold was reached. Karnus set out with Drewen, Threy and Vasily to explore the ancient Hutaakan settlement, but Lana had other business to attend to. As the four friends entered the ancient ruins, the eyes of the Staff of Hutaaka lit up and flared brilliantly, but Karnus was dismayed to find that the once great city was no more than a bunch of fallen stones and crumbling walls. Desperately he searched for anything that might lead to the fabled underground caverns, but, alas the town had been utterly devastated.

Karnus turned round in dismay, ready to give up, when suddenly the staff in his hand seemed to move of its own accord. Karnus was dragged after the staff until he stood in front of a huge boulder.

At that point the staff lofted itself upwards, and its eyes flared with magical light.

Without warning, twin beams of magic shot out of the staff and struck the rock. There was an almighty explosion of blue magic, and the boulder was no more. The staff had reduced a centuries old rock to dust in seconds...

Karnus and his companions stared dumbstruck at the staff. Karnus had had his suspicions that the staff was powerful, but he had never dreamed that it could do that! The display had hardened his resolve and soon the party descended into the massive hole that had been left by the disintegrated boulder.

Wandering through the catacombs turned out to be quite an ordeal, and Karnus was glad that he had brought his companions along with him, especially when they encountered three trolls. Fighting off the great beasts drained the party, and it was decided to retreat for the night.

The next morning the companions re-entered the ancient catacombs, ready for the challenges that were sure to face them.

Exploring the caverns they soon discovered a massive temple, shaped in the head of a jackal, with many undisturbed Hutaakan artefacts. Karnus instructed the others not to touch anything, yet further investigation produced no results. There appeared to be no way onwards from the temple, so the companions continued on their way.

They rounded a corner, and stopped, as they saw a sight to curdle their blood. Three enormous terrifying creatures were clawing at the door in front of them, yet appeared not to have noticed the party. Each of the creatures was covered in armour plating, and had enormous hooks on the end of their arms. It was decided that there would be no negotiating with these creatures, and Karnus unleashed an illusory fireball to stun the creatures.

The battle was ended soon enough, and the party was able to continue onwards.

They entered a massive cavern, lain with the bodies of dead Hutaakans and gold, piled higher than a human in places. As they approached the dead began to stir, and they noticed only then the large group of undead Hutaakans shuffling towards them. Vasili turned the creatures away many times, but they kept returning. It was only when Karnus showed the haunted beings the Star of Pflarr he had retrieved from Hutaaka that they left the party members be.

Proceeding onward, the companions entered the burial chambers of the Hutaakans. Sarcophagi stood throughout the room, and in one side a great crack split the side wall in two. Yet each of the coffins had been somehow altered, at the merest touch they crumbled as if they were constructed of soft chalk.

But Karnus was not concerned with such things, for the staff was guiding him towards a carved stone on the back wall. Written in the indecipherable Hutaakan script, Karnus knew that this was what he was seeking.

Concentrating on a spell, Karnus magically translated the words of the stone slab:

"The time has come for me to rest, but I fear my sleep will not be a peaceful one. Those who seek me should pay Pflarr his due at the altar, then speak my name to his ears, and look between his eyes. Then I shall await..."
Karnus knew immediately what he must do. Turning with a new resolve, he headed back towards his companions, only to find that they were under attack by glowing balls of energy, which hurled small balls of lightning at the armour of clerics and dwarf. Karnus curiously studied creatures, which were paying him no heed, as he was wearing no armour.

The little metal eaters did not follow them from the chamber however, and the four soon arrived back at the temple, ready to conduct the ceremony.

Karnus placed the Star of Pflarr upon the altar, and it sank into the intricate pattern on the stone slab. Approaching the alcoves that made up Pflarr's ears, the young Mage spoke the name "Xaphorteq" aloud in each, and watched in amazement as the statues in the alcoves bowed towards him.

Returning to the altar, Karnus watched as yellow energy cycled round the ancient slab of stone, swirling and forming intricate patterns in the air. With a final surge of power, the light sank to a spot in the floor, that then opened revealing beneath it a long passage.

Karnus thought that from now on, he should carry this burden alone. Surely there could be no danger from a long dead mage.

Descending into the tunnel, Karnus followed it along until he reached a small chamber with a magnificent Sarcophagus in the centre. Slowly the lid was pushed aside, grating and sliding away.

What rose from within was a horrific sight. The mummified remains of a Hutaakan sat up and stared at the intruder, tattered remnants of ceremonial robes hanging from its rotten corpse, and eyes glowing a horrific, deep scarlet. Karnus was taken aback, images of a benevolent ghost presenting him with a book of ancient knowledge shattered as the foul being in front of him shuffled forward.

The young mage held up the staff and appealed for the mummified horror to be still, cursing his foolishness at leaving the Star of Pflarr upon the altar. The remains of Xaphorteq hesitated for just a moment upon seeing his staff, and Karnus swore that some of the madness went from his face. Yet in seconds the foul being was once again bearing down on our hero, reaching towards him with one twisted claw...

Back in the temple, the other companions were milling around aimlessly. Threy was absent mindedly inspecting one of the silver statues, and was about to reach out and touch it when the silence was pierced by a shrill cry of terror. Drewen looked up from his nap, and Vasily returned from his guard. The three hurried towards the secret door, and peered down into the darkness, silent once again.

As one they decided that they must venture into the unknown in order to find Karnus, whatever trouble he had gotten himself into. Snatching the Star of Pflaar off the altar, they descended into the darkness.

The three friends emerged into the tomb of Xaphorteq, and saw not one thing. There was no sign of Karnus, or the terror that had assailed him. Drewen and Vasily rushed to the passageway to continue the hunt, but Threy called them back, swearing he could hear breathing in the sarcophagus.

They pried the lid open only to discover their missing companion, paralysed from the thing's touch. Karnus quickly overcame his fear, and managed to relay all that had happened to his friends.

The party decided to continue onwards, for the soul of Xaphorteq could only be laid to rest by releasing it from undeath.

They ventured into the catacombs, realising that they were now in the deepest parts of Kizraaka, as the passage they had entered was waist high in water. Threy was leading the way at this point, with the Star of Pflarr held high in front of him, when suddenly the mummy erupted from the water, its eyes glowing a malevolent scarlet colour.

The startled Threy dropped the precious talisman that could have warded off the creature, but Vasily stepped in front of the oncoming horror, the symbol of Halav held high in front of him. The black thing shunned the holy icon, and fell backwards, scrambling to get away from the cleric and the symbol of his faith.

After a moments rest and the retrieval of the Star, the four friends continued onwards, and emerged in a large, dry chamber, heavily decorated in Hutaakan styles. Along the walls, there were eight statues of Hutaakan warriors, equally spaced, their eyes dark rubies, and at the far end of the hall that they had entered, was the massive stone head of a Hutaakan looking at them, its eyes glowing a dull red.

The party caught a glimpse of movement in the passageway beneath the massive edifice, and strode forwards to investigate, when suddenly Karnus noticed that the eyes of the head were glowing more and more intensely, he was just about to warn the others when, with a burst of magical power, twin beam shot from the Hutaakan's eyes, and reflected off the rubies within the heads off the other smaller statues.

The room was suddenly filled with a mass of red death rays, cutting through the air and constantly shifting and changing. The companions dived for cover, but Karnus was rooted to the spot, he could not move his body, he looked, astounded, as his right arm moved, positioning the Staff of Hutaaka between himself and the oncoming ray of destruction.

With a burst of blue magic, the staff released its own power, the red beams were met and forced back by the opposing energy. For a minute Karnus stood there fighting the ancient deadly energy with his own will, and the power of the Staff. With one final burst of effort, the deadly beams were driven back and the massive Hutaakan head bore the brunt of the magical onslaught. In a flash of sapphire energy, the statue exploded in all directions, reduced to dust by the might of the Staff.

Picking themselves up, Threy, Drewen and Vasili stood staring, who turned to face them. Karnus flinched under their gaze, thinking his companions awed from his new found power, when he noticed that they were actually looking beyond him...

From the passage under the now decimated stone head came the horrific figure that had been Xaphorteq, bearing down on the young mage. Yet this time Karnus new what must be done, calling on his magical powers he summoned the words of a Fireball spell, preparing to cast it at the foul creature. Yet the mummy was too swift, and charged into the plucky young hero before he could finish the spell. Karnus was forced backwards, feeling the paralysis from the thing's touch once more enter him. The other three companions rushed forwards and a great melee ensued.

The two Clerics soon fell to the thing's raking claws, their bodies seizing up, but Drewen, the brave and heroic Dwarf, and certainly the greatest fighter of the party, charged on, driving the evil undead fiend back, until with one mighty swing with his great warhammer, he crushed the things skull. Instantly the paralysis left the others, and Karnus rose in time to see the last vestiges of red disappear from the ghoul's eyes, to be replaced briefly by a flicker of yellow magic, then nothing.

The blue-robed mage walked over to the once great mage, and solemnly closed his eyes, then noticed that upon his finger was a ring, identical to the one worn by Drewen, one they had found upon Golthar's dead form. Karnus pulled the ring off the mummy, but did not put it on, fearing that it could be cursed. He placed it into his pocket absent mindedly. Threy, meanwhile had been scouting along the corridor, and came back demanding the attention of the others.

The party rounded a corner to find an area of corridor that shifted and twisted beneath their gaze. The walls warped in such a way to make a ceiling suddenly a floor, defying gravity and common sense alike. They stood, hesitating to go any further, and it was some time before Karnus plucked up the courage to venture into the vortex. he stepped in...

And stepped out again, none the worse for the experience. Obviously this was just some elaborate ward, yet Karnus regretted that he did not possess the knowledge to work out its function. His companions followed suit, and they found themselves in a large antechamber, one door on the opposite wall. Yet on either side of the door were two immobile jade statues of a type they had encountered before in Hutaakan ruins. This pair seemed however to be dormant, and they passed through he door with ease.

And it was in the next room that Karnus found his destiny. The eyes of the Staff flared brightest sapphire, then faded again... In front of the young mage stood a table, upon which was an ancient tome, the Journal of Xaphorteq, High Wokan of Hutaaka. It was in this book, that the ancient mage had detailed the use of the staff, how to unlock all of its power, all of its potential. Grasping the book, Karnus felt unbridled joy, as at last his quest was complete, and the power was his.

Yet their trials were not yet over, as the blue robed mage picked up the ancient text, a section of wall slid aside and behind it were three more guardians. The Hutaakans had been adept at constructing magical guardians for their works, and three of these animated statues now stepped towards them . During the quest for the Lost Valley, Karnus had long speculated that there must have been a control mechanism for these creations, and the picture suddenly sprang into focus. The young mage turned to Drewen, and urged the Dwarf to command the statues with his ring. The jade ring glowed briefly but had no effect on the advancing defenders, when Karnus realised his error. Drewen's ring had been to control the creations of Zitaaka, the ring of these statues had been on the mummified form of Xaphorteq!!

Fumbling in his pocket, Karnus brought up a ringed hand and commanded the guardians to stop, just as one was about to rain death blows on Vasily. The jade creatures halted, and turned to Karnus. He commanded the creations to return to their guard positions, and with a bow of their Hutaakan heads, they followed his command.

The other two guardians at the door moved to block their retreat, but at Karnus' command, turned away. The young mage ordered the statues to follow them, and the party walked back to the chamber where Xaphorteq had fallen. Karnus commanded the statues, and they reverentially picked up the corpse and followed the heroes back to the tomb. Here, Karnus had the guardians place the High Wokan into the sarcophagus. He ordered them to stand in this room and Guard the catacombs, and was about to leave when the eyes of the Staff of Hutaaka flared, and the heavy stone lid of the coffin floated off the floor of the tomb settling itself back over the restful form of Xaphorteq.

The four friends then left Kizraaka quickly, as Karnus was eager to unlock the powers of the Staff, but he swore that he would return later, to explore the remains of the catacombs of Kizraaka. And so the party set out for Threshold, from there to journey once more to Specularum, and home, onto another grand adventure.


"As we left Kizraaka I felt a great burden had been lifted from my heart. At last I had the power I craved, now I could right wrongs and smite evil alongside my companions, battling all those who would oppose the common good. Yet as I turned to look at the ruined city one more time, I could swear that, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure surrounded by yellow light. He seemed to look directly at me, then nod, and then there was nothing..."


Epilogue

In a darkened study in the city of Specularum, Karnus sat pouring over the ancient text, devouring the information and history contained therein. As he turned to the last page of Xaphorteq's Book, Karnus saw what he was finally looking for; the incantation that would allow the staff to recognise him as its master. As he glanced at the shifting Hutaakan script, he could feel his gaze being dragged along the line, word by word, searing into his brain.

"Jsonity beezlmuth anoth cratha ptar Hutaaka"

A yellow glow surrounded the book, streaked with sapphire light, Karnus was surrounded in a maelstrom of Magic.

"Ytraoy frotn bananas cras ptar Xaphorteq"

Karnus felt his will melt away, as the final words of the spell entered his mind. Limbs moving with iron purpose, he strode to the centre of the Magic circle he had prepared, and held out a hand to the Staff. It shot across the room and landed in his open palm. Karnus held the staff aloft, and recited the spell once more.

When he awoke, the staff was by his side, and his old mentor, Teldon, was standing nearby, looking on in shock. The amount of magic Karnus had channelled had drained every other experiment in the building, and created a boom that was heard all over the city. Karnus lifted the staff and its eyes flared at the touch of its master. All the effort had been worth it. The staff was now a part of him, he was now part of it, a new era in Hutaakan history had begun.


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