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"Drovox," the Lich Lord's voice was colder than ice. "You will lead us in the slaughter today."
Drovox had no choice but to assent. He gave a brief nod of his head in the direction of the Lich Lord, unwilling to look into those soul-stealing eyes. The Lich Lord was a Necromancer of unbelievable power, perhaps the most powerful man in all of Sanctuary as far as Drovox was concerned. Drovox had always misliked being in the presence of the master summoner. There was always an icy gloom that seemed to follow the man wherever he went, and the chances of a dozen skeletal warriors and magi crawling from the earth at a moments notice were generally good.
Drovox stepped clear of the other Necromancers and mentally prepared himself for the spells that he would need for his task, as the day's killing promised to be rigorous. He was a Necromancer of considerable strength, and while he but dabbled in the summoning arts, he was more than competent in his hexing. Drovox had a bountiful arsenal of curses at his disposal; he had curses that killed, curses that weakened, curses that confused and terrified, and even a curse that turned a foe's attacks against them. But Drovox's true strength and greatest natural ability was in bone magic. Ripping the spectral teeth, claws, and bones of the great undead dragon Trang-Oul from the aether and flinging them in the faces of his enemies had proved remarkably easy for Drovox. It had only gotten easier once Drovox had located certain dark tomes and slain their erstwhile owners.
Drovox's feet took him from the Necromancer's campsite up the brief mountain trail to a ridge near the summit of Arreat. The biting cold of the snowy mountain was a shade more enjoyable than the Lich Lord's presence. The sun overhead shone down on his pale white skin, where it was not covered by armor. Drovox was not quite used to Arreat’s chilly peaks. Most of his work was done in the darkness of Kurast, at the jungle floor, or studying in the crypts and mausoleums. He would have preferred the cobwebby temples to the mountain winds, but as a member of the Undying Ones, Drovox's fate was bound to the mountain that they were fighting for. More specifically, his fate was bound to the secret treasure buried at the heart of the mountain and was the source of his little clan's power. The Undying Ones had long ago planted a seed of corruption in the Worldstone, and as the years passed they leeched more and more power from it. Should the Worldstone fall, so too would their ancient order. Drovox had no intention of falling from power, not after all he had sacrificed, yet he could not see how they would save the Worldstone from destruction.
As he reflected on his upcoming task, Drovox tried to remember the day he set out from his village in search of the Necromancer temples hidden deep within the jungles of Kurast. He had not always been tutored in necromancy. He had once been a youth trained in the arcane arts and elemental magics, but when his masters discovered that he had been dabbling in demonic summoning, they banished Drovox from their order. But Drovox never cared for the elemental magics, the flinging of puny cinders and summoning of chilly winds. Oh, Drovox had heard the tales of The Cloudrender, the legendary Sorceress who was said to have struck a mighty blow at the Hellforge itself. Her fabled Frozen Orb was a sight to behold, or so the tales went.
Con't on post #4
Edited by UncleAndross on 9/19/2011 6:57 PM PDT
But as far as Drovox was concerned, Necromancy carried one unarguable advantage over all other types of warmaking: unending life. The Necromancer Priests at the temples in Kurast had declared eternal life impossible. After scouring the moldering tomes hidden in the Vault of Darkness, Drovox discovered otherwise. Immortality wasn't impossible, but rather... inhuman. A few whispers in the right ears, a trip to the Grand Council, and ten years of supplication in service of a Blood Magister was all it took for Drovox to finally quench his thirst. That had been over 200 years ago... It had all been worth it. Had it not? He was no longer certain.
"Quite a number of enemiesss, Drovox," came the slithering voice of the one named Viper. "Pleassse, I crave the honor of your war council. I have...many dark spells I would render to you. They are, hmmm, most contagiousss," Viper pulled his lips back to reveal his sharpened teeth in what he must have considered a smile. The effect was diminished, however, by the absence of eyelids and the tattooed scales that covered his hairless body.
Drovox regarded him coldly. The man, if that is what he could truly be called, was a master in arts of poisoning. For gifted Necromancers, transforming another creature’s blood into caustic venom was as easy as pissing in a well. Viper had an affinity for spewing his own putrefied stomach bile in the faces of his foes and then laughing like a madman as their faces melted off. Drovox had no desire to learn the secret behind his unending flow of bile. Viper also had a reputation for bedding with serpents, sometimes as many as a dozen at once. Drovox liked the man little and trusted him less. No doubt his friendly advice was a ruse, concealing some sort of betrayal designed to make him appear weak in the eyes of the Lich Lord. Such was the way of his order. "Silence, worm. I'll have none of your council. This day belongs to me alone."
Viper hissed and slithered away on all fours, all the while never taking his eyes off Drovox. But Drovox's eyes were on the valley below. Soon, he knew, it would be boiling with Baal's demonic horde. The Lord of Destruction had an affinity for plundering armies and the wide trails of desolation they left after conquering one kingdom or another. Drovox hoped to use those swarming numbers to his advantage.
His eyes drifted to a small holdfast near the edge of the valley. Drovox felt no remorse for the soon-to-be-dead occupants; he would sooner drink their blood in the unholy rites. He was reflecting on the coppery taste of blood when the demonic battle cry rose up to meet him on the ridge. The sound made the hairs on the back of Drovox's neck stand up, even from his vantage. He could distinguish all three Prime Evils in the demonic howl. There was the frenzy-inducing notes of Terror, the near-palpable Hatred for mankind, and the promise of untold Destruction.
Drovox knit his brow in concentration, and a moment later a fire golem burst into existence at his side. The swirling orange flames burned white hot at the core of the golem, and it’s radiant presence offered a small amount of relief from the howling winds. Drovox would summon golems as bodyguards, but he did not care for the sloppy horde tactics of the vast skeletal armies such as the Lich Lord kept. He swirled his hand lazily and a moment later he was surrounded by a whirring buzz of bone armor. The bones themselves were fragments of the great dragon Trang-Oul, ripped from the aether to shield the Necromancer’s body. The shimmering bones swirled around him, the ghostly bones swirling around the corporeal ones that ornamented his shoulders. Thusly arrayed, Drovox focused at the point where he knew the horned and scaled armies of the Lord of Destruction would appear.
The demon host began as a small cluster of demons spilling over the side of the valley and ended as a sea of screaming and slavering nightmares that filled the valley. Every one of them was hell-bent on making a feast of the stalwart mountain clansman who defended the holdfast. From his vantage point on a small bluff Drovox saw the tide of demons begin on his left and watched rather impassively as they surged toward the holdfast on his right, where the defenses were scrambling to meet the charge. His fire golem strode about nearby, restless.
Drovox had a considerable knowledge of the creatures that lurked in the jungles of Kurast, and studied these new foes as a hunter studies his prey. The surging demonic wave of horns and steel was spurred on by the whips of the hateful overseers, fat waddling things with spindly arms wielding cruel whips that could twist a man’s head off. Behind them, gibbering orange imps riding the backs of great siege beasts popped out of existence in a burst of flame, only to appear hundreds of feet forward in another burst of hellfire. They began launching firebolts. For their part, the siege beasts were wheeling forth hellish catapults wrought from dark metal and stitched with runes, although some of the brutes had lapsed into bloodlust and were roaring forward, trampling any unlucky enough to be in the way.
Drovox eyed the holdfast with a look that bordered between scorn and contempt. He could see the indigenous clan preparing their defenses. Their catapults and scorpions were on a system of wheeled tracks that allowed them to alter their angles of fire; although, there were so many demons that speed in reloading the war engines would be more important than where they were aimed. The fifty foot walls encircled the holdfast, and there was a thick oaken gate banded with iron, one foot thick. The murder holes above the gate would allow the defenders to pour bubbling oil on the attackers below (In Kurast, where the wood was generally too wet to burn for a cauldron of oil, the defenders of the mossy jungle keeps would dump bags of venemous scorpions and sacks of angry snakes. Drovox considered the results comparable).
Their walls might hold for a time, but they had no real chance of survival. More likely they would meet their end at the edge of one demon’s blade or impaled on the horns of another. The unlucky ones would be devoured alive. But they might take down ten times their number, if their courage held and they defended their walls. For that, Drovox was grateful. He would need all the time he could get to delay Baal from reaching the Worldstone Keep, enough time to make sure that he would outlive the fate of his order.
To be continued (!)
Edited by UncleAndross on 10/17/2011 7:44 PM PDT
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