Session 73: Run!

Having destroyed the congregation of undead skeletons and zombies, the group searched the temple before taking a rest.

Yanliz and Jess searched for their arrows, but they had all been destroyed in the flames. Yanliz stood guard by the main entrance to the temple, which was a twenty foot wide corridor of familiar black with red stone, that extended forty feet before twisting slightly to the right. Jess took up a position near the door they had used, which led to where the prisoners had been held.

Valeria searched the walls with her labrys, pulling aside the thick red curtains. To the left of the altar, behind the corner of the curtain, she found a corridor.

Vernim searched all the bodies, but found nothing under what remained of their simple red and black robes.

Brother Martin examined the thrones and altar, particularly the mosaic that was obviously depictions of Erishkigal and Nergal.

"Perhaps, Valeria," Vernim suggested, "it would definitely be nice to take some time to admire the scenery, and sit down and relax for a little while."

"I don't need to rest," Yanliz proclaimed from the entryway.

They were just beginning to rest when Yanliz heard someone shouting from the corridor.

"Shamhat! Shamhat! Nabu-Nisir! Are you there?" cried the male sounding voice.

"Shamhat is the high priestess," Valeria quietly reminded everyone.

"Should we say 'no' and tell him to go away?" Vernim whispered.

"No!" Valeria replied.

Following Brother Martin's lead, Valeria suggested they hide in the pews.

Yanliz saw a man wearing red acolyte's robes and carrying a staff turn the corner, heading toward him. Seeing Yanliz, the man immediately turned and ran away.

"He's running," Yanliz said, rushing to the corner, only to find another forty foot stretch corridor, this one empty and turning slightly left.

As Philip dashed into the corridor and caught up to Yanliz, the ranger said, "He has your staff," and the monk took off like the wind after the acolyte.

Beyond the second twist in the corridor were two doors along the left wall, thirty feet apart, and the acolyte knocked on both with his staff as he ran past them.

Philip turned the second corner as the acolyte tapped the second door, and was soon just steps behind the acolyte.

"That's mine," Philip said, pointing at the staff.

Brother Martin, Jess, Lawence, Valeria, Vernim, and Yanliz all dashed after them, down the glowing corridors, but could not catch up to Philip.

Philip ran around the acolyte and tried to grab his staff, but it was yanked away at the last moment. He tried to kick the acolyte, but missed.

Jess took a shot at the acolyte as she ran, but missed.

As the acolyte ran past Philip, he was tripped by the monk, and went tumbling hard into the floor.

"Flee!" the acolyte moaned the command, before rising and disappearing around the corner of the next intersection to the left.

Philip turned and fled back toward his companions, past Yanliz, who tried in vain to grab him, past Jess and Brother Martin, and almost reaching Lawrence, Valeria, and Vernim, who were the farthest behind.

Jess turned the corner to the left and took another shot at the acolyte, who was running down a sloped corridor, but missed again.

At the far end of the sloped corridor were two doors, the first at the end of the left wall, and the second was an unusually tall and wide door. As the acolyte passed them, he knocked his staff against them, shouting, "Mendel!"

Philip stopped and turned around, resuming his chase.

Noting that the corridor also continued straight and opened into a religious looking chamber ahead, Yanliz turned left and caught up with Jess at the sloped corridor, and they realized that these doors were familiar.

"Where did he go?" Yanliz asked, as the corridor was empty once more.

"He went that way!" Jess indicated the right turn, forty more feet ahead.

Yanliz kept dashing around the corner, and spotted the acolyte running just ahead of him.

Jess followed, with her bow drawn once again, and missed again as the acolyte ran towards the exit.

Running like the wind, Philip passed his companions and followed the acolyte around the corner into the caves ten foot wide exit tunnel.

Jess reached the corner to the exit and missed another shot with her bow as the acolyte ran into the valley.

Yanliz ran around the corner to the cave entrance, and cast hunter's mark on the acolyte, stopping the acolyte, literally, dead in his tracks, with one shot.

Philip ran down into the valley and retrieved his staff. He grabbed the acolyte and began dragging the lifeless body back to the cave.

Philip hadn't made it very far up the slope, when he heard, "Stop!" from the center of the valley.

Philip looked up and saw The Black Knight galloping toward him.

"It's The Black Knight!" Philip shouted. "Run!"

Jess drew her bow and waited for The Black Knight to get closer.

"Where's your knight now?" The Black Knight shouted. "Bring him forth! Is he cowering from me? Where is your champion? Who's your champion?"

When no one answered, The Black Knight charged toward Philip, lowering his lance at the last minute, and knocked Philip to the ground, pinning the halfling with his lance.

"Yield," The Black Knight commanded, "and bring your champion forth!"

Jess let her arrow go, but it went wide.

Lawrence, Valeria, and Vernim reached the cave entrance, but, having heard Philip's warning, did not exit.

Yanliz was hit by an arrow from across the valley, and then another. He could not tell where they came from, so he aimed for The Black Knight, who knocked the arrow aside with his shield. Yanliz withdrew into the cave.

Philip tried to roll away, but as he turned the The Black Knight quickly thrust his lance into the halfling's back. Philip fell, and was motionless.

"You're surrounded!" The Black Knight shouted. "You'll never make it back in time! Where is your champion?"

Brother Martin peeked out of the cave mouth, and, seeing Philip's condition, revived the halfling with healing word, before retreating back into the safety of the cave.

Jess peeked out of the cave, missed The Black Knight, and retreated back into the cave.

Pinning Philip face down to the ground, The Black Knight shouted, "Bring forth your champion and have him fight me one on one, or he dies and all of you die!"

"Can we talk this out?" Valeria called from the cave mouth.

"No!" The Black Knight replied. "I demand a fight to the death with your champion!"

"Can we fight you in an hour?" Valeria asked.

"Is it going to take your champion an hour to get here?" The Black Knight called.

"Yes," Valeria replied.

"He's very strong," Vernim added, "and stronger than you ever will be, but he needs some time to get here. He's very slow."

"Do not try to deceive me, you fools!" The Black Knight scoffed.

"We are not deceiving you," Vernim lied. "You must see the truth behind our words."

"Bring forth your champion now," The Black Knight demanded, "or the little one dies."

Still in agony from his wounds, Philip lifted his head from the grass, as a bee buzzed around his face. "The real champion is friendship!" The halfling cried in resistance. "Run!"

Lawrence stepped out of the cave and sat down just outside the entrance. "Well, you see, we would bring out our champion," the diplomat called, "except you see that, well, he's had a long day, and he's expended all his resources, and there he is at the end of your lance, but I'm sure that if you gave us a day, he'd be able to mop the floor with you."

"This is your champion?" The Black Knight guffawed.

"Well, you see, you caught us at a poor time," Lawrence continued. "We just got out of a fight, and I don't think it was really fair, the way you brought on this fight. If we were being really honest, he's on foot, and you're on a horse."

As Lawrence continued to engage and distract The Black Knight with his onslaught of words, Valeria and Vernim both cast healing word on Philip, and the halfling was starting to feel much better.

Yanliz peeked out of the cave and looked around for any sign of archers. He thought he saw a glint of something shiny coming from just beyond the bugbear's cave entrance.

Yanliz cast fog cloud on The Black Knight, but it immediately disappeared as he was felled by an arrow in the chest.

The Black Knight thrust his lance back into Philip's back. The halfling squirmed, but was unable to free himself.

Brother Martin dragged Yanliz into the cave, and channeled divinity to preserve life on Yanliz as well as Lawrence.

"If you want to have to have your duel," Lawrence continued, "you're not going to get it by killing our champion. You have to give us time to bring him back from what looks like the brink of death."

"This munchkin is your champion?" The Black Knight asked incredulously.

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Lawrence insisted. "You caught him at a rather poor time."

"Where's his armor?" The Black Knight challenged. "Where's his sword? Where's his lance? Where's his steed?"

"He doesn't need armor or a sword to beat you!" Lawrence exhorted. "He's just that good!"

"What happened to your other champion?" The Black Knight questioned.

"We don't have another champion," Lawrence maintained. "This is it!"

"If I defeat him," The Black Knight demanded, "you all have to lay down your weapons, and all your treasure!"

"Okay," Lawrence bargained, "but not today. He's in no condition to fight."

"Yes, today!" The Black Knight demanded.

"You're not going to get anything out of it," Lawrence urged. "Don't you want a challenge?"

"I'm not going to wait a day!" The Black Knight insisted.

"Fine," Valeria conceded, "Will you give us an hour?"

"Give me a hostage to take his place," The Black Knight agreed, eyeing Lawrence, "and I'll give you an hour."

"We can oblige," Lawrence called out, rising and handing Valeria the incandescent blue sphere they had taken from the high priestess.

"Come forth and yield," The Black Knight commanded, "and you can prepare your champion for his doom!"

"Don't take me for a fool," Lawrence negotiated. "Give him to us first."

Lawrence convinced The Black Knight to meet halfway, and Philip was exchanged for Lawrence.

"You better come back...champion!" The Black Knight growled with contempt. "...or all your friends will die!"

Lawrence approached The Black Knight and attempted to pat his horse, chiding, "are you sure you're not going to run?"

"Just sit there," The Black Knight commanded, and Lawrence sat in the grass.

Once Philip reached the rest of his companions, they withdrew into the cave.

Valeria gave Philip the incandescent blue sphere.

Philip took out his ale, and began to drink heavily.

Meanwhile, Lawrence challenged The Black Knight to fight Philip with honor, questioning whether he would fight on horseback and suggesting he was too scared not to.

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