"WHO DARES TO DISTURB MY SLUMBER? IS IT YOU, ANNOYING RAT KING?" thundered a sepulcherous voice from the elaborate coffin at the top of the dais. Before it stood 8 hulking, rotted minotaur zombies. Behind the dais crouched 8 piles of bones, with a bull skull perched ominous on top.
"No, it's just me!" Aeli (@thePrincessWife's character) called back. Beside her stood her loyal henchmen, Turchao and Rather. Behind her stood 6 hirelings with flasks of oil and torches, her mage companion Tironell and the mysterious Osash - acolyte to the Patriarch of Valetown.
"A WOMAN?!" boomed the voice. "NO... NO... I SAW YOU DIE AS LIFE LEFT MY BODY. I KILLED YOU ONCE. NO... NOT THAT SWORD! NOT THAT ACCURSED SWORD! NO, IT CANNOT BE YOU AGAIN! I WILL KILL YOU AGAIN!" With that challenge, a cadaverous form of a minotaur skeleton wreathed in a layer of rotted skin stood in the coffin, draped in rotted mage robes. This had to be Alaxus, in some type of evil undead form.
Aeli and her companions waited. Hands gripped swords and spears with white knuckles. Short breaths were heard as everyone stared in dread at the sight before them. In the rear, Tironell muttered as he desperately tried to figure out how to activate the thin "Fizbin's Shooting Stars" wand he had recently acquired but not yet figured out.
"GO AND DESTROY THEM, MY MINIONS!" Alaxus thundered and he gestured towards the group standing in the doorway.
"This is it!" Aeli called out. "Stand your ground and force them to fight into the door. Osash, can you turn them?!"
"I believe so..." called out Osash in a strangely untroubled voice. He chanted words that made the group's collective skin crawl and Aeli felt a chill run down her spine. The zombies lurched to a halt, and then turned around!
"Aha!" called out Tironell as Osash triumphantly concluded his chanting and gestured the zombies away. "I've figured it out... FIZBINS SHOOTING STARS!" and the wand's end burst into a silvery/purple glow and a small glowing "star" shot out of it and smashed into the hulking minotaur mage.
"ARRRGH!" Alaxus groaned and then he lifted his right hand. "ARISE MY LOYAL WARRIORS! CRUSH THESE INTRUDERS!" Behind him, to the left, four of the piles of bones began to spin in a circular motion, rising up from the ground to form shambling skeletal minotaur warriors. They lurched forward at the door.
"Down and throw at the mage!" Aeli commanded. The front rank immediately went to one knee and hunkered behind shields. Behind them, Osash again chanted his odd words and Tironell sang out "FIZBINS SHOOTING STARS!" again. The skeletons immediately spun on their heels and fled for the opposite wall of the sepulcher, scratching at the wall to get out. Flasks of oil sailed towards the mage as another silvery star smashed into him. One flask sailed overhead, but the other two broke on him and the coffin, covering him in dripping oil.
"NO! ARISE MY WARRIORS!" Alaxus called out and he gestured to his left. In similar fashion, two more piles of bones spun in the air and arose to skeletons. Alaxus boomed in laughter. "YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO SEE THE SUN AGAIN!"
In answer, Osash again chanted his faith in his religion and the two skeletons were repulsed. As if to answer in challenge, three torches sailed from the second rank towards Alaxus. One hit the doorway and broke apart, covering the party in cinders, which they quickly beat out. One sailed over Alaxus but the last skittered across the dais and touched the oil puddled at his feet. Almost immediately, the oil burst into a conflagration which burned away the rotting robes and charred the mage's undead skin. (**1) Once again, Tironell called out the words that caused the wand to spit a magic missile at Alaxus.
"NOOOO!!!!" howled Alaxus. "PROTECT ME, MY FAITHFUL!" and he gestured one last time to the remaining two bone piles, which arose into warriors.
"Tironell, why aren't you using that wand?" Aeli called out urgently, still hunched over behind her shield.
"I... I... if I use this wand up, it's gone! It's the only one I have!" confessed Tironell.
"If we make it out of here, I'll buy you all the wands you want! Kill that damn thing!" snapped Aeli.
Tironell muttered, but his response was lost due to the chanting of Osash, who faltered and then trailed off... the skeletons continued to advance.
"Up and hold! Wait till they get close enough! Second rank, spears at ready!" Aeli barked. She hefted the Blade of Runes which was shining a bright blue light so painful, it was almost too much to look at directly. As Turchao and Rather glanced at her, she almost seemed to look like the famous heroine of legend that slew Alaxus originally. In their stupefied state, they almost immediately dropped their swords as the skeletons charged in their attack.
The skeletons clawed at Aeli and the front rank, ripping flesh and bone on Turchao who screamed in pain. Alaxus laughed coldly and gestured at Aeli.
"NOW YOU DIE!" and he snarled words that seem to stab at her, in the form of three small red/silver balls of energy that smashed in her, nearly knocking her on her feet. Behind her, the hirelings stabbed at the skeletons with their spears, smashing bones and destroying one completely.
"Tironell... use that wand!" Aeli groaned in pain as she staggered to her feet and battled the last skeleton, her sword slicing it into an unmoving pile. The flaming oil encasing Alaxus had burned out, leaving scraps of skin hanging like tattered curtains on the undead mage's bones. He snarled another spell and before the party's unbelieving eyes, he grew.. and grew... and grew to a huge form! His evil laughter filled the sepulcher.
"YES, LOOK UPON YOUR DOOM... " began Alaxus and then a small voice was heard "FIZBIN'S SHOOTING STARS!" and a silvery/purple missile shot out and smashed into Alaxus. He staggered...
"NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo....." he wailed as his form began to crumble into dust from the inside out. A whistling sound was heard as the ancient mage of Evil fell.. again...
The party stopped moving for a moment in disbelief... then Aeli turned, grabbed Tironell by his waist and hoisted him so high, he almost hit the tunnel's ceiling with his head.
"We did it!" she yelled. "We did it! We won!!!"
And that, my friends, is how @thePrincessWife slew the proto-lich Alaxus, found his treasure haul (which gained her about 5,000 XP), found a blackened skin covered spell book, found his notes which may give her clues to her ancestor Kellus and found a mysterious silver-filigreed black crystal ball, which she had to pry from the coffin's lid. She almost forgot to check the coffin, she was a bit in shock and awe of having achieved her goal.
Mechanically, I made Tironell do a 5d6 attribute check to figure out the wand - he passed quite handily. That wand, the oil, and the discipline of Aeli's attack at the door, holding her ground and forcing Alaxus to commit his forces, were the keys to success. I was going to have Tironell stop using his wand, but Aeli made him continue to fire it. @thePrincessWife really roleplayed the session well.
Turchao and Rather, her henchmen, both fumbled at the same time, in the same way, when the skeletons charged. Aeli used the Fighting Man - Multiple Attacks rule and we successfully converted to DAC so I could use the Target20 algorithm. I use it in my AD&D games and it's just so easy for me now.
We also had a treat that I used my big Battlemat for the first time with her. She liked it! I may have to use it again. I don't want to focus on the miniatures as boardgame pieces, but she enjoyed "seeing" the room.
Now Aeli has a lot of things to do. She's got the books, written in the Black Tongue of Mhaldor(**2) to translate. She has a mysterious orb she knows nothing about. She has a favor to return to the Patriarch for use of his acolyte. She also still has to find out why her arch-enemy Calypso was so interested in her ancestor Kellus that he'd kill her entire family over it.
I can't wait for the next game!
**1 - in my OD&D campaign, I've ruled that most physical undead can be affected by fire, the more powerful at half damage. Non-corporeal cannot.
**2 - one genuine ChicagoWiz No-Prize to the person who not only can identify where Mhaldor came from, but has virtually been there and can tell me what my use of this place probably means... :)