Worming Through the Tunnels

Excerpt from ‘The Heroes of Xymor: The Great Debate, Chapter 9: Of Loss, Destiny, and Choices,’ by Archmage Hannibal Kahnhari, Head Scholar and Headmaster of Ravencraft School of Sorcery and the Dark Arts.

…The Heroes of Xymor, led by Nolofinwe Tasartir, began their travels through the dark caverns and passageways of the great underworld towards the secret, back entrance of Shukalgau.

Once more, Vermelda of Black Lake, assaulted the sorceress Arien-gil Bihari in her sleep but the heroes were unable to protect her. As Craven Witchborn treated Arien after her attack, he noticed she had physically aged in appearance. He realized he had aged as well.

The heroes surmised that their recent interaction with the red rock had an aging side effect. Nolofinwe and Flint Ironfist had touched the stone as well but didn’t appear affected like Craven or Arien. (A common theory is that Nolofinwe and Flint were of the immortal races, a wood elf and a stone dwarf; races who are slow to age and immune to spells or conditions of rapid aging.)

To recount, Vermelda of Black Lake had first touched the red rock before her escape from the Burrowlings. Soon after, as the heroes ran for their lives from the Burrowlings, Arien touched the red rock, followed by Flint, Nolofinwe, and then Craven.

Did Vermelda curse the red rock with her touch, causing an aging affect for future interaction? Did Craven’s prayer of death that caused the red rock to fracture and blacken have an after effect on all past, present, and future participants of its healing properties? Was there always a side effect towards all who touched the red rock and the heroes had then just noticed it for the first time? (This last theory does not hold as Varen, the half-drow who stayed in Hactuan, had touched the red rock before and there is no account of his aging process.)

These were questions the heroes had to ponder. But questions cannot be answered without pursuit. So the heroes continued onwards to Shukalgau…

The heroes marched, and entered a narrow passageway; they noticed affixed to the cavern walls and ceiling giant silk webbings. They saw no sign of spiders, big or small, or entombed husks typically found on webs. They cautiously continued onward as there was no other way.

Then Flint, Arien, and Nolo stopped. There was a glow ahead. Craven, in the rear, couldn’t see what the others saw and turned around to make sure nothing was behind them. Flint, Arien, and Nolo stood there for a moment, when suddenly Flint and Arien rushed forward into an open cavern.

“What are you doing?” Nolo whispered, but the half-drow and dwarf ignored him.

Arien and Flint were enraptured with something and compelled to go to it. Craven slowly inched forward and saw that the two of them stood by a glowing blue ball of light hovering in the air. They stared at it, mesmerized.

“What’s wrong…” Craven began to ask, but his answer came before he could finish. Two massive worms burst through the roof. They whipped out tentacles and entangled Arien and Flint, preparing them as a meal.

Craven prayed and a spectral scythe of death appeared between the two worms and attacked. Nolo summoned his flames of nature to harm the abominable creatures. Flint and Arien awoke from their charm effect and realized their predicament. The two of them used their magic and teleported out of the grip of the worms and rematerialized next to Nolo and Craven. The priest of Muerath quickly prayed and healed Arien.

One of the worms submerged itself back into the ceiling while the other slithered through the webbings to pursue the heroes. The worms continued being attacked by the spectral scythe. Through Arien’s acid spells, Nolo’s flame summons, and Flint’s booming warhammer, the heroes took down the pursuing worm. But the second worm was still alive.

Behind them, another blue glowing ball appeared. The heroes peered at it for a second and turned to each other. Flint shrugged at Craven.

“There!” Nolo shouted, pointing at the rumbling floor as the second worm emerged right next to Craven.

Craven touched the giant worm and prayed:

“Goddess of Death, Mother of the Night, Immortal of all Immortals,
I summon thy Might, I awake thy Deathly Strike,
Let the Living feed on the Dead, and the Dead starve in your Dread,
Let there be Darkness, let there be Death, Forever.”

The worm squirmed in pain as life energy flowed out of it and into Craven. Then Nolo summoned a massive wall of flame around the creature…



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