The attackers struck like a bolt of lighting on a clear summer’s day – suddenly, savagely, and shockingly. It had been only a few minutes before that all that remained of the Silvermote Company was standing miles beneath the surface, stuck between a portal to the hells, and the profane goddess of the drow. Three times she entreated them to her service, and three times she was denied. With a snarl that turned to a sudden smile, she granted the request to return them all to the surface.
Torvold held a deep breath, reveling in the cloudy skies above Waterdeep at the same time he inwardly gagged at the stench and press of the throngs of the city. Despite it’s name, Rainrun Street saw little in the way of precipitation, nestled in the shadow of Waterdeep castle, but it was a common thoroughfare for everyone who labored nearby. At midday it was loosely packed with tradesman and hawkers working a milling crowd flowing in both directions over the rough cobbles of the road.
The monk suddenly missed his home, his monastery, and the other members of hs order. A twinge of guilt, bordering on panic coursed through his normally serene psyche as he considered their situation in the context of recent revelations of their adventures. Running a calloused thumb over the jagged shard of the once-powerful platinum badge he kept in the pocket of his robes, the monk closed his eyes and took another deep breath. Now that they were free of the accursed Underdark, perhaps he could make contact with the monastery and..
“Torvald, to arms!”
Yenven’s shout, like most of his actions, was direct and to the point. As the monk snapped out of his self-imposed reverie, he noticed a throng of individuals, similarly garbed, though wearing different shades of fabric, suddenly appearing within the crowds on the street, and moving towards the party with clearly malicious intent. The most numerous of the sudden foes, wearing darkly-stained crimson robes were armed with a motley collection of staves and slings. Behind each cluster of red-robed assailants was a pair of lieutenants – one dressed in blue robes with blue-white scythes, glimmering in the overcast haze, flanked by hulking green-robed bodyguards with wicked-looking spiked chains.
Torvald snapped into action, dropping to a crouch as most of the commoners on the street fled in shock and surprise at the sudden appearance of the horde of strange assailants. It was only once the street emptied out that Torvald realized that their garb, aside from the strangely significant coloration, was almost identical to his own.
Torvold quickly counted their foes, as his land bound comrades settled into a defensive posture, the druid and bard both taking to the air. The monk felt a momentary pang of concern for the strange pipes nestled within his magic bag, knowing that if he fell, so did the bard.
There were probably fifty opponents on the street – eight clusters of assailants, closing in the party in a deadly weave that again tickled the monk’s memories. This is how his strategy instructors had taught him to fight in groups in tight quarters! Snaking out into two hastily gathered, but dangerously ordered groups, the odd monks began their attack with the intonation of a single word by fifty voices: “Phoo!”
Before he could spend any time considering the further ramifications, the strange monks struck, with deadly efficiency. Sling stones rained down on the party from half the groups, while the others sprang towards the party in a magically augmented sprint. Before closing with a half-dozen assailants, the monk noticed most of the lieutenants had also taken to the air. His flying comrades were going to be badly outnumbered!
As the melee ensued, Torvold lost himself in the patterns of combat. His flowing stances and ki-powered abilities quickly dispatched two of his six assailants, but there were more closing quickly, and he had taken a hit for every three he delivered. Out of the corner of his eye, the monk saw Yenven screaming wordless battle cries as his great maul shattered bone and weapon alike in an indiscriminate threshing of his opponents.
Somewhere between the two clusters of melee fighters, Tovold heard the now-familiar incantations of his dwarven companion. With a loud crack, one of the clusters of fighters was flensed by an aura of magical force, staves splintering as skulls and chests split like melons. Yenven continued his brutal assault, catching a few blows, but none seemed to be penetrating his armor.
Above, the battle was quite different. The pair of winged defenders traded spells in an opening probe by the eight blue-robed monks, floating menacingly in midair like carnival lanterns lit by deadly intent. The green-garbed bodyguards split into two groups, one group of four that stayed to defend the cluster of spellcasting monks, as the others sped towards the bard and the druid.
The monk blinked in the blinding brilliance of a rain of lighting shooting down from the low-hanging clouds in a sudden torrent of ozone and death. When the purple haze cleared from his eyes, after a quick blink, Torvold was astonished to see that the lighting not only had no effect on the strange blue monks, but appeared to have empowered them somehow, as they all were now ringed in a sparking corona of magical electricity.
It was back to the battle then, and the monk had to worry about keeping his blood in his body more than whatever was happening above the street. A few onlookers who had emerged from the Yawning Portal seemed garbed as adventurers, and were weighing the risks of joining the throng when the Waterdeep Watch arrived, along with a Magister and six bodyguards!
Torvold smiled grimly as the tide turned. Though he had to dodge two well-intentioned quarrels shot off by the well-meaning Watchmen’s crossbows, the red-robed monks in the street fared far worse, as did the green-robed monks above, as the air was suddenly alive with dozens of quarrels, summoned by Peliaos’ battle magics.
The blue-robed monks responded to the speedy arrival of new foes without hesitation. The watch patrol was decimated by several overlapping ice storms, as streams of lightning shot out from their curious swirling sparkshields, stabbing out at the bard and the druid, both of whom shouted in pain and outrage.
It was only then that Torvold noticed the crimson smoke oozing from the wounds of of a fallen monk near his left flank. There were three more red-robed monks ready to join the fray, but they seemed to be waiting for something.
The cobblestones of Rainrun street flew as the bodies of the red-robed monks exploded in blasts of flame and force. Torvald barely managed to hold his feet, but Yenven was shot into the air like a child’s toy, landing a dozen yards from where there was now a smoldering crater in the middle of the once-bustling thuroughfare.
“Right, forgot about that.” said the monk to himself, his ears ringing with a deafening whine.
The monk snapped back into a defensive posture, and tried to put some space between himself and his assailants, but they matched his speed without much effort. As the monk racked his brains for the best forward course of action, the air took on a panicking weight, forcing him to a stop as the world crawled to a halt all around him.
A new figure had arrived at the scene of the battle, garbed head-to-toe in black, and surrounded by an umbral aura. The size of an ogre, and bulging with misshapen dissymmetry beneath a black robe, the creature resembled the rotting remains of a dragonborn. In two bone-clawed hands it clutched a stave of ebony, carved in a corcksrew spiral, capped by a black dragon’s head. Though the monk could do little about it, it seemed the newcomer and the staff were the cause of the sudden stillness over the battleground, as a stream of arcane emanations from the staff slowed time to a stop.
The black-robed monstrosity made an awful noise from deep within its cowl, coughing up a putrid lozenge of slime and what appeared to be rainbow-colored glass shards. With the disgusting glob in one hand, and the stave in the other, it began to enact some sort of fell enchantment.
Torvald racked his stores of arcane knowledge on how to escape hsi situation, when it dawned on him that he shouldn’t even know about his situation. Time stop magic generally left those affected by it completely unaware of what is going on around them, yet the monk could see everything else stopped, and the strange creature croaking out the incantation.
Perhaps whatever affected us in the Underdark lingers still? The monks inner thoughts found no answer, but with a supreme effort of will, he found his hands inching towards the artifact strapped to his back, hoping to combat the incoming enchantment with the abilities of the Sakin Asa. Just as his fingers, trembling with the effort of moving against the impossible inertia of the magical time stop, closed around the ivory handle of the artifact, the black-robed monstrosity seemed to notice that he had moved.
In a blink and a pop, the creature loomed over him, floating an arms breadth above the ground. Its rotten draconic face peered with a combination of wariness and rage as the lozenge of goo and glass slipped to the ground where it landed with crackles and hisses as it ate into the cobblestones.
With a grotesque squeal of dried tendon and bone, the hulking undead once again took its staff in two hands, this time adjusting its grip to strike an overhand blow on the monk, barely capable of motion below it.
Torvald focused his will, called upon all his meditative focus, the remains of his internal ki reserves, and the raw power of the Sakin Asa to try and counter the incoming attack, which he could tell would be fatal if it connected. Just as the fangs of the dragon-headed staff were about to pierce the monk’s skull, the hold of the magic binding him loosened. Reflexively, Torvald brought his ivory artifact into a blocking position, hoping to absorb the force of the deadly attack.
Instead, both the staff and the rod shattered.
There was a moment of absolute stillness, as lines of black etched themselves through the rod in the monk’s hands, and cracks of white exploded from the ebony staff. Time seemed to slow again, with Torvald taking in every minute detail of the two items breaking into hundreds of shards, and gravity starting to carry them away.
Then time, or reality, or something caught back up, and everything exploded into white.
When Torvald awoke, he gasped in agony. Every inch of his body, inside and out, burned with the stings of a thousand thousand bees. So great was his agony that the monk momentarily lost consciousness again, only to regain it when he focused on the greater pain of his loss – his failure.
A palm's width of his artifact, his charge, his responsibility, lingered still in his right hand. Lying on his back, clutching that shard, he began to focus past the pain, and regain control of his tortured muscles.
Torvald had no idea how long it took, but he eventually regained control of his limbs, though he was still blind, and deafened, so far as he could tell. Struggling to his knees, he attempted to stand, only to fall to the ground again. Dimly, he could sense he had gotten some dust in his mouth when he recollapsed, but he could not taste it, only sense the grind of the powder against his clenched teeth as he struggled back into a sitting position.
Over another indeterminate period of agony, the monk’s sense started to return – hearing first, and judging by the groans and moans about him, his comrades were in similar straits.
The monk tried to express something other than a response to the dull pain that was his body, but failed to do so with any eloquence.
It was only as the monk tried again, falling back to the packed-dirt ground beneath him, that he realized in addition to his groans, and the agonies of his allies, he heard the jingle of chain, the creaking of a wagon, the grind of metal-rimmed wheels, and the clomping of of hooves.
Then the familiar dwarven-tinged common before he lost consciousness…
“Oi! You lot again? I thought I just got rid of you?! Och, well, the Mist giveth, and the Mist taketh away…”