(an excerpt from the journal of Gavenot Rizzlan)
We were ill-prepared and down one sword as we entered the catacomb and my reservations about treading where the dead also walk were quickly confirmed. As we swung open the double doors to the many pillared chamber, Malark and I both immediately identified our first truly undead adversary, a loathsome wight. A fell remnant of a man with the vile essence of unlife coursing through it, filling it with an insatiable desire to snuff the life out of any who still draw breath.
After my first two spell attempts failed against a large spider we encountered in the sewers that led to the catacomb, I felt the need to vindicate myself and prove the power of the new arcane spell I had recently learned to channel. My outstretched hand let forth a ray of flames that enveloped the abomination, searing its gray flesh and filling the chamber with an almost palpable odor. The once-man was caught off guard and, as if clinging to the last human instinct it once had, fled down a far passageway beyond the reach of our lantern’s light. Had we our wits about us, perhaps we too would have retreated after seeing this first glimpse of what we were to encounter in this evil realm. But buoyed by our quick success and bolstered by the number advantage we had on the wight, we decided to hold ground and wait for its return. A decision that nearly cost both Malark and Breen their lives.
The confidence we held in our numbers was short-lived as three preternaturally agile skeletons raised themselves and ascended upon Malark from the southern alcove which we had not yet assessed. Their swords, though rusted and aged, proved very effective still as they were plunged into the holy man. Though badly injured, Malark seemed certain that Azuth would heed his call and send the skeletal animates fleeing in fear of the holy power. I must admit that I too trusted the priest’s abilities and faith but the ancient power of Myrkul which propelled the animates proved too strong to overcome. When several of Breen’s arrows passed harmlessly through the ribcages our attackers and Malark’s second call to Azuth fell upon deaf ears as well, I was certain that we were the overmatched and would never again be bathed in the warming rays of Lathander’s rising sun.
Knowing that Malark’s demise would most certainly assure a similar fate for Breen and myself, I wove my magic that pulled the cleric out of the fray and willingly placed myself in harm’s way. The suddenness of the transposition seemed to confuse the skeletons and several skillful dodges on the part of Breen and I, coupled with the charges expended from my sparking wand felled our attackers and bought Malark the time needed to heal himself. Though immediately following, as if sensing the rejuvenated life essence in the chamber, the wight reappeared and charged toward Malark. Thankfully we were prepared and stopped the creature just before it was able to deliver its deadly blow on our priest.
After pausing to gather our thoughts (and some useful trinkets from the recent remains of a pair of halflings who did not fair as well as we) we pressed on. I can only assume that Breen presumed the passageway to be safe given the wight’s retreat down it just minutes before but the living, we found, were not as welcomed. The followers of Myrkul that designed this place were bent on insuring the safety and sanctity of the unholiness of the inner room. Breen’s fleet feet activated a hidden glyph on the floor of the corridor and also fortunately kept him from harm. Malark and I were not as fortunate and took the brunt of the minor magical explosion which shredded our outer layer of traveling garb and tore into our skin.
The innermost chamber was unoccupied, or so we thought, but its floor was covered in a viscous red fluid which dripped from the mouth of a magically enhanced elf skull. Given the other evils we had faced in this tomb, we were wise and careful to avoid touching the spillage. We were not as wise and careful with the dark corners of the room and I paid dearly for it. A shadowy form stepped from the wall and made clear its intention to rid Faerun of me. I was able to weaken it with my final flame spell but not enough to deter it from attempting to recruit me into its shadowy ranks. It lashed out at me with its incorporeal essence and I was immediately stricken by an unearthly weakness which rendered me nearly unable to stand. My hands, ice blue and shaking, could barely be steadied to release a charge from my wand. Twice more the shadow grabbed for my remaining strength and I could not begin to explain how it did not succeed. The details of how we managed to strike it down remain blurred in my mind.
Perhaps Malark’s call to Azuth protected us in some unseen way, but in my opinion, nay, with absolute clarity and truth I tell you that none of us should have left the tomb alive.