A Horrific Hunt
 

Prellis The Scribe

UP: Atlantic

    Choosing the more accepted human form, Nostur’yl appeared on the snow filled plains, the daemon hound again at his side. The pure white of his robe shifted as the snow filled winds blew across his form, blending him into the landscape. A large tower of stone loomed up before the mage breaking the serenity of the ice lands.

Next to the mage, the daemon hound’s ears perked up as it emitted a low growl directed at the tower. Nostur’yl knew why the hound was upset, and knew further that it had nothing to do with the evil of this place. From within the towers halls, cries of men could be heard echoing out into the cold air, men whose hearts did not fit into the cold darkness that was the Tower of Skulls.

Entering the tower, the two supernatural beings found the disturbance within. Several men clad in what could only be described as the garments of royal knights, had surrounded one of the dark minions Nostur’yl sought this day and were attempting to take him prisoner. The signs of battle were evident throughout the lower hall with scuffmarks showing where the invading heroic forces had dragged off other captives.

The entropic knight on horseback had but moments before being taken prisoner, yet stopped in his tracks at the sight of the mage and his hound. Reaching into his pack the knight produced a rack of fetid meat and tossed it to the hound with a cackle, which the beast quickly devoured. Shouts rose up from the heroes surrounding the knight, calling for his surrender, “Gath, you are under arrest.”

Seeing no other dark minions about, and not wishing to allow a gem to slip his grasp, the mage spoke to the group assembled. “I fear I can not allow you to take this creature at this time. When I am done with him, you may have him, but not a moment before.”

A rather brave man stepped forward to demand of the seeming mage, “How will you stop us?”

The hound growled at the hero, but refrained from attack as it had not been ordered for such, and instead looked to its master. “How mortal?” was the reply that came forth from Nostur’yl as he released the illusion and shifted forms into his more natural daemon body. “You dare question a daemon of mine rank?”

It was a bluff, for while the daemon lacked the remaining gems he could not easily interact with the physical realm without draining all his energies. He decided to push the bluff forward and draped himself in the illusion of a full-formed daemon as he had done so many times in the past. The translucent form shifted slightly as it took on the deep grey more often associated with one of his kind. Using the power of the diamond to create such illusions drained him, with each form taking away from the time he could remain visible until rested.

The bluff paid off, the heroes made their way out of the tower doors quickly, leaving behind their would-be captive. Gates could be seen opening in front of the tower as the forces of good made their way back to their home on Serpents Hold. As the last gate twinkled into nothingness, more members of the city of Caina arrived to defend against the heroes, only to find Nostur’yl draped in the illusion of a human mage and his daemon hound.

Once the dark beings had made their way into the lower hall of the tower and confirmed the raiders had gone off, they turned to Nostur’yl offering greetings. The daemon wasted no time and began explaining to the gathered group how he had located another gem, a ruby this time. He went on to state how the ruby rested upon a wisp, which had taken on the color of the stone it carried and further stated that the daemon hound would be able to track the creature; leading the group to it.

“Hound! Find my ruby!” Nostur’yl called out and then was gone.

The daemon hound sniffed at the air and made it’s way out the open doors of the tower. Once outside into the open air, the hound sniffed again, turning about as if testing the scent of the wind. After moving in circles for a short while, the beast seemed to catch the scent and headed to the southwest with the group of evil adventurers following behind.

Making its way outside the town of Caina with nose in the air, the hound came to stop at the edge of the island. With the growls coming from the daemon hound as it faced to the southwest, the adventurers were quick to determine that their prey was some place across the vast ocean.

A boat was brought to bear for the adventurers and hound, which they quickly boarded and set sail. As the boat begin it’s movement, the hound let loose a low whimper being uneasy above the water which contrasted its very existence of fire. Regardless of its protests, the hound stood true and continued to point in the direction of the hunt, with the ships captain following its lead and steering.

The ship traveled for some time, the cold sea breeze filling the sails forcing the hull through the crashing waves. Eventually a look out spotted land directly ahead and the ship made for it, coursing through the breakers to come to a stop at the shoreline.

Once on dry land, the daemon hound’s nose went into the air smelling for the scent of the wisp that held the ruby. Showing the precision of well-trained warriors, the adventurers secured their vessel and made ready to follow their guide through the forest before them. Before long they had traveled the land and once again faced the sea, as it was now apparent they stood upon an island resting off the coast of the main lands.

Again the ship was made ready and the adventurers boarded. The hound, however, was reluctant to enter the vessel that would take it onto the water again. Through some coaxing from the party and knowing it must complete the task Nostur’yl set for it, the daemon hound stepped warily onto the ship and they set sail again.

The journey was short, passing quickly across the waterway separating the island from the main land. They landed on a small beach outside the swamps north of Trinsic and disembarked. After the adventurers had secured the ship, the hound took the lead and they continued the hunt for the wisp.

Several times on their journey the group was harassed by small war parties consisting mostly of ratmen and lizardmen. Each ambush from the vile creatures was met with sword and spell, as the daemon hound watched from the side. For the larger parties of monsters, the daemon hound would reluctantly assist the adventurers, making quick work of the creatures so as to continue on their journey. Freed of the last of the attacking monsters, the adventurers arrived at a maze of hedge with the hound growling at one of the many entrances to within.

They began traversing the maze with the hound leading. Many times they were forced to turn back as the hound only followed the scent and knew little of the blocking hedges. At several of the blocking hedges, however, the hound would not turn back and instead stood growling. One ingenious member of the party would mark a rune and teleport to the next clearing, providing a magical gate to the other members to pass across. After some time and having returned seemingly to the point which they entered the maze, the wisp came into view.

Wandering in a seemingly random pattern through the maze, a wisp, the color of a ruby held before the sun, was surrounded by the adventurers. Speaking the nonsensical tones which some had grown accustomed to hearing from these beings; the wisp broke away from the party and continued on in its haphazard pattern.

Not waiting any longer, the party descended on the creature of red energy; first with spells from mages followed by the warriors of the group. The wisp fought back fiercely, subduing some of the party with ease, but there would prove too many for the wisp in the end. With a final cry out of almost musical tones, the light of the wisp ceased to glow and it fell to the ground, a red corpse resembling a ruby itself.

Wasting no time, the adventurers searched the body of the wisp and produced the stone it had carried, bringing a howl of glee from the daemon hound which had watched from the side as the battle commenced. A magical gate was quickly opened and the hunting party stepped through returning them to the island of snow and ice.

Sensing it’s masters presence; the hound ran through the doors of the tower and made its way up the many staircases to the rooftop, the adventurers following closely behind. There on the rooftop stood Nostur’yl in his natural translucent daemon form. The daemon hound again took its place to the side of its master and the returning party gathered before him.

“We have retrieved the gem from that damnable wisp,” Lucus spoke for the party, as he rummaged through his pockets for the ruby they had claimed.

Using most of his remaining energy, the daemon seemed to solidify its form, taking on the dark grey tone in his leathery hide. Only this time it was no mere illusion as the daemon entered the material realm for a mere instant to take the offered ruby from Lucus’ hand. No sooner had the ruby been presented to Nostur’yl then it disappeared, absorbed into the very essence of the creature.

Outwardly there appeared no difference in the state of the daemon as his form returned to the Abyss with the new power found in the ruby; as he recreated the illusion of his physical form, not wishing others to see his weakened state from leaving the Abyss for that short instant. Instead, Nostur’yl spoke with a powerful voice saying, “With that ruby I am now immune to most magics.”

He went on the speak of the three remaining gems briefly and inquired on the state of finding Lupov Thagrad, who was rumored to hold the tourmaline he needed. After a short parlay on the information held to Lupov’s location, Nostur’yl offered his thanks to the group for the ruby and made ready to depart.

“I must be off to search for the remaining gems,” Nostur’yl half lied to the group. For several days he would need to rest after the task of materializing in order to absorb the gem. The last of his energy dwindled away as his disappeared from their sights. The daemon hound disappeared as well, returned to the Abyss to stand guard over its master while he rested, leaving the evil adventurers alone on the tower roof.




From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Tuesday, June 20th 2000