A Gift from the Dark Gods

Woodblock Letter S ilently, Nazim crept down a darkened hallway in the subterranean fortress of Tor-Meretak. Nervously clutching her unholy symbol in one hand and a bloody stiletto in the other, the priestess whispered a supplication to Kalas for courage. It was here, in this stronghold, that the dwarves guarded the priceless Talisman of Ice. Before the sun rose, Kalas willing, Nazim would hold it in her bony hands.
Flickering torchlight illuminated the doorway ahead. Nazim could hear several gruff, merry voices from beyond it. Blissfully unaware of their impending deliverance from this world, the dwarves caroused.

Woodblock Letter T hrough the doorway slipped Nazim like a shadow. She quickly surveyed the room, counting - two, three, four dwarves. They noticed her an instant later. Muttering a quick prayer, Nazim waved her hand. One of the dwarves opened his mouth to shout, but there was only silence in the room now. Two of the squat warriors scampered for their nearby axes. The other two turned and ran toward an opposite door. Concentrating, Nazim made a silent entreaty to the God of Death. A wave of fire swept out the door, toasting the two fleeing dwarves. They dropped and lay still in the hallway.
The priestess's two opponents charged her, axes gleaming. One was surprised as his weapon was deflected by the black aura shrouding Nazim. The other looked briefly satisfied as his swing connected. Within a few seconds, however, both dwarves lay mindless on the floor, as Nazim's spells made short work of them. Cursing, Nazim moved her hands over her wound until it closed. She then bent and sent both her erstwhile opponents to Kalas's side.
Quickly, Nazim moved down the next hallway, deeper into the stronghold. She could sense her goal was near. Ahead, the corridor opened into a large cavern. Nazim's eyes widened as she approached - the cavern ahead was vast indeed.

Woodblock Letter S tretching perhaps a hundred yards into the mountain, the room ahead was dominated by a central pillar climbing fifteen feet toward the ceiling. More precisely, the capacious room was dominated by the small object atop the pillar. Radiating bright indigo light, the Talisman of Ice illuminated even the far corners of the cavern. Nazim smirked as she glimpsed the goal of her mission. This had all been too easy.
Nazim's unwariness cost her. As she strode toward the pillar, she failed to notice the dwarves patrolling the far side of the cavern - or the twenty-foot gap in the wall high above the passage from which she had emerged. Nevertheless, the dwarves noticed her. A shout rang across the cavern, and shortly thereafer, the toll of a gong echoed from somewhere nearby. Dwarves spilled into the cavern at various points; Nazim snapped her head around, suddenly worried. Clutching her unholy symbol, she shouted out to her deity. Whirling blades surrounded her, and tremors began to shake the room. Suddenly, dwarves lost their balance and tumbled to the floor, clutching the rock with astonished expressions. The Talisman was jostled from its pillar, and fell to the floor. Nazim had more immediate concerns - the Talisman was nearly indestructible.
One concern Nazim didn't have was the creature emerging from the gap in the wall behind her. The size of a house, the beast was covered in scales, and flexed sword-sized claws as it unfolded its wings. Peering at Nazim, the creature let out a shriek. Suddenly, Nazim was very concerned.

"Woodblock Letter Kalas, aid me with a gate to the dark planes, that I might bring my enemies more quickly unto death," intoned the priestess. At her gesture, a rift opened nearby. "Kalas, I entreat you to send a minion to help," shouted Nazim, as the scaly beast plummeted toward her. A giant skeleton popped into existence near Nazim, and immediately moved to intercept the beast. Meanwhile, the dwarves backed away, obviously fearful of the great green beast.
The beast was upon her. Drawing upon the power of the plane rift, Nazim sent torrents of mind-numbing energy at the creature. The giant skeleton slashed at its scales, leaving large gashes that the oversized reptile seemed to ignore entirely. With a swipe of its claws, the creature shredded Nazim's upraised arm. Tears of pain rolled down her cheeks, but her resolve stiffened. Holding her other hand out toward the beast, she called upon Kalas. Scales ripped open, even as Nazim felt her arm begin to heal. The plane rift wavered as its power was sapped.
For minutes, the mighty priestess held her incensed enemy at bay, drawing upon the unearthly powers of the rift. The dwarves shifted nervously on their feet, none of them willing to enter the fray of swirling blades, claws, and spells hurled. The winged reptile began to tire from its wounds, but its meager thought processes assigned this development little importance. The dwarves had brought it a meal, and tonight, its meal was fighting back.
Nazim allowed her mind to race ahead as she hurled spells at the beast. How would she deal with the scores of dwarves waiting for her? Where has the talisman gone? Whatever time she had for such considerations, however, was about to vanish.

Woodblock Letter T he plane rift wavered as something on the other side neared. With an audible pop, a spirit shot from the rift, which quickly dissolved. Several of the dwarven warriors fainted at the sight of the extra-planar denizen. A jumble of bones and rot, it was an incarnation of death itself. Despite Nazim's familiarity with the genre, the spirit seemed unhappy with the disturbance. "Nazim, tonight you die," it growled in its unearthly voice.
Panic gripped the priestess as two opponents bore down on her. She supplicated Kalas again and again to close her wounds, but she was so beset that she felt her control of her healing spells slipping. Soon, she would have no energy remaining to pray for help from Kalas. Upsetting as it was, her mission was a failure. Now, she could only attempt to escape alive. Turning, she fled through the doorway from which she had come.
The reptile pursued her as far as the doorway, but was far too bulky to chase any further. It lost interest, and flew back to its nest. The spirit, however, was not so easily deterred. Following the priestess, it roared and pointed its finger. Nazim let out a cry as she suddenly was blind.
The spirit assaulted her ferociously. Unable to see to run, Nazim had no choice but to fight her enemy. Turning, she chanted to Kalas to strike the spirit down. The battle raged on, as Nazim's knees trembled with trepidation. She was not ready to embrace Kalas's final gift this night. Her death seemed imminent, though, as she attempted to hold off the angry spirit.
Nazim prayed to Kalas to restore her sight. The world around her came back into view, cloudy at first. Turning, the priestess continued her flight, the spirit not far behind.

Woodblock Letter O ut of the fortress ran Nazim, past several shocked dwarven guards. Suppressing her panic, Nazim gasped through tired lungs: "Kalas, allow me to commune with my brethren!" From across distances near and far, her fellow priests received Nazim's chanted message:

-={@ Nazim (Priest 31): Brothers and Sisters, my life is
                        in danger!  I beg you to aid me. @}=-

Exhausted, Nazim turned to face the approaching specter of death. She knew she didn't have long. Luck was with Nazim this day, though. One of her brethren, a follower of Nocturnis, was nearby. Sister Vanda hurried to aid her dark sister.
Vanda arrived with little time to spare. Nazim, spent, was on one knee, hurling what little energy she had left at her attacker in an attempt to hold it off. Shouting, Vanda called upon Nocturnis to strike the spirit. Bolts of lightning shot from the night sky, striking the foul incarnation of death and lighting the hillside. The spirit, wounded, continued undistracted in its goal of eradicating Nazim. With another supplication to her deity, Vanda called more lightning down upon the spirit. The acrid stench of electrocuted, rotting flesh reached Vanda, but she persisted, until the bones and flesh fell apart and quickly withered away. Nobody would claim her sister's life tonight.

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Inscribed by: Thyros