Read The Curse of Naar Online

Authors: Joe Dever

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Lone Wolf, #Magnamund

The Curse of Naar (7 page)

23

For countless hours you follow this tunnel as it ascends and descends by ramps and stairways through a bewildering maze of chambers, vaults, and grand halls. On your travels through this vast underworld you witness many awe-inspiring sights: huge subterranean quarries, blazing furnaces, armouries, weapon forges, steel mills, and white-hot lava pits. Armies of grey-skinned humanoid workers labour without rest within this hellish domain to manufacture weapons of war and destruction.

At one vast hall you stop to observe a legion of these creatures tapping the volcanic power which lies at the core of this realm. By a system of chutes and tubes they divert a blazing lava flow to turn gigantic wheels and heat titanic vats of noxious fluids. The workers, although physically similar in size and demeanour to Drakkarim, seem to lack consciousness and remain oblivious to your presence. It is as if they have been turned into unthinking automatons, programmed simply to perform their labour with little regard to their immediate surroundings.

You leave the hall and ascend a staircase which spirals hundreds of feet through solid rock to a titanic concourse. Here your senses detect a living presence and you allow your Kai instincts to lead you in pursuit of it. You enter a tunnel which branches away from the concourse and follow this to a wider passage. The walls of this passage are decorated with spectacular scenes of war and destruction. Thousands of troops fight an endless parade of battles across the landscapes of a hundred different worlds. In each of the scenes the theme and the outcome is identical: the victory of the superior forces of Evil over the inferior armies of Good. This callous celebration of evil military might infuriates you, but you control your anger and use it to sharpen your senses. You detect that somewhere at the end of this passage is where the living presence can be found and, not knowing the nature of what it is that you will find there, you approach with the utmost caution.

The passage ends at a vast chasm where a narrow bridge of rock crosses a yawning void to a gate located on the far side, some 300 yards distant. The gate and its surroundings have been fashioned to resemble the mouth and head of a ferocious dragon, and the bridge of rock is likewise carved to resemble its extended tongue. A shimmering, twinkling, blue-white light gleams from the mouth of the dragon-gate, revealing it to be the exit from this dark domain. Excited by your discovery, you step onto the narrow rock-bridge and make your way across to the far side as swiftly as you dare. On either side of this stone beam the chasm falls away into a seemingly bottomless pit. You try not to look down for the sight makes your stomach churn uncontrollably.

You are nearing the centre of the bridge when suddenly a dark and terrifying apparition manifests itself before the dragon-gate. This awesome sight brings you skidding to a halt.

Turn to 200
.

24

You are about to push your way through this barrier of vines when you notice something strange: each creeper is trembling very slightly, as if it is shivering with cold or fear. You draw your weapon and use it to prise the vines apart, but suddenly you hear something which makes you freeze. From somewhere above the canopy of branches there comes a deafening noise, like the sound of heavy tropical rainfall. As if in response to this noise the hanging vines rise up and flail the air. They lash out at you with stunning ferocity, forcing you to retreat along the trail before their stinging blows: lose 3
ENDURANCE
points. With mounting dread you realize that these vines are not plants at all: they are hostile living creatures.

Beneath the coating of moss which sheathes the vines are hundreds of tiny hollow barbs, capable of ripping flesh to shreds. You strike out at them, smashing one in half. It emits a high-pitched squeal as it recoils, trailing a spray of sticky green slime from its broken tip. As if enraged by their companion's cry of pain, the remaining vines snake towards you with increased tenacity. You must fight them.

Haemodyls:
COMBAT SKILL
 49   
ENDURANCE
 45

These vine-creatures are immune to all forms of psychic attack, except Kai-blast and Kai-ray. If you possess Animal Mastery, you may add 2 to your
COMBAT SKILL
for the duration of this fight.

If you win the combat,
turn to 19
.

25

Unfortunately, when you are halfway across the bridge you are spotted by a Lavas passing high overhead. Immediately it signals to two of its companions and all three creatures swoop down to block your exit. Their cries of alarm attract more than two dozen of their kin, and also alert the reptilians that are lining the parapet. At a given command they close in and attack you mercilessly with their spears and tridents. You fight back with stunning bravery, dispatching more than ten Lavas and seven reptilians before eventually you succumb to their sheer weight of numbers.

Sadly, your life and your quest end here on the Huan'zhor Chasm Bridge.

26

You cast your eyes over the body of your enemy and, to your dismay, you are unable to detect any chink in the thick plate armour that encases him. The thought of having to fight this warrior at close quarters, here upon this narrow beam of stone, is one that fills you with dread. While it is still an option, it would be better if you could use your Kai skills to defeat him at a distance.

If you possess Grand Nexus and have attained the Kai rank of Grand Crown or higher,
turn to 98
.

If you possess Magi-magic and wish to use it,
turn to 294
.

If you possess Kai-alchemy and wish to use it,
turn to 135
.

If you do not possess these skills, or if you have yet to attain the required level of Kai Mastery,
turn to 224
.

27

Rimoah ushers you to a refectory table at the entrance to the chamber where Lord Ardan is carefully arranging artefacts upon a sheet of scarlet silk, and he invites you to inspect these curious items. He glances at your sword belt and smiles when he sees the finely-crafted hilt of the Sommerswerd protruding from your scabbard.

‘Well, I see you'll have no need of new weaponry, Grand Master. Surely there can be no blade better suited to the slaying of the Dark God's foul creatures than the one you already possess — the Sword of the Sun.’

‘Aye,’ comments Ardan, ‘ 'tis true. Your divine sword can vanquish any of Naar's creations. It may even possess power enough to smite the Dark God himself!’

Lord Ardan's words lift your spirits. It is comforting to hear that you possess at least one effective weapon against the horrors you may have to face during your quest for the Moonstone.

‘It is a fine blade, Grand Master,’ says Rimoah, ‘but be sure to use it with utmost discretion. It was crafted upon the Plane of Light and it radiates a strong and goodly aura. In Naar's domain its radiant energies could attract unwanted attention.’

If you possess a Korlinium Scabbard,
turn to 258
.

If you do not possess this Special Item,
turn to 341
.

28

Your speed and skill have devastated the maggot swarm. You have slain more than half their number and forced the remainder to seek shelter in the shadowy recesses of this reeking hall. You sense also that your victory over the swarm has greatly weakened the spirit of Cadak. You are about to seize the advantage and launch a psychic attack when suddenly you hear something quite unexpected.

‘Spare me and forgive me, Lone Wolf,’ pleads Cadak's plaintive voice in your mind. ‘I renounce my evil past. Forgive me so that death may free my soul from the slavery of Evil. Grant me this salvation and I shall help you to escape from the realm of the Künae.’

The receding tide of maggots has revealed a glowing ring that lies on the slime-smeared floor at the centre of the hall.

‘Take the ring, Lone Wolf. Take the ring and grant me your forgiveness. With the ring the way is clear for you to leave this hall through the Tunnel of the Wyrm.’

Beyond the flame-like spirit of Cadak you can see the rotting rib cage of the reptilian carcass. The semicircular shadow that occupies it is now pulsing with a warm, amber light.

If you agree to forgive the spirit of Cadak and wish to pick up the ring,
turn to 128
.

If you refuse to forgive the spirit of Cadak and decide that you will not pick up the ring,
turn to 20
.

29

As you strike the fatal blow, Kekataag gives vent to a scream which rocks the foundations of Dazganon. His body falls to the floor and disintegrates into a mound of dust and rusty metal. From the core of this debris there arises a shadowy vapour which is sucked away through the porous chamber walls. You sense that it is the spirit of the defeated warrior and that as punishment for his failure, he has been consigned by Naar to eke out the rest of eternity with the other lost souls upon the Plain of Despair.

You are elated and exhausted after your hard-won victory, but this is not the time for you to rest nor celebrate your triumph. You sense that Naar is enraged that you have destroyed his latest champion, and you can feel his wrath building to a fever pitch.

If you possess the Sommerswerd or Skarn-Ska,
turn to 108
.

If you possess neither of these Special Items,
turn to 6
.

30

As you look down at the ferocious jaws of the three giant arachnids below, you give thanks to your friend Guildmaster Banedon for having taught you this valuable spell. However, one limitation of this spell is that it can only levitate you vertically into the air; it cannot propel you horizontally. The effects of the spell soon wear off and you find yourself descending into the midst of the giant river-spiders. As your feet touch the muddy bank, you unsheathe your weapon and defend yourself against their immediate attack.

Avagnids:
COMBAT SKILL
 48   
ENDURANCE
 40

These creatures are immune to all forms of psychic attack, except Kai-ray. If you possess Animal Mastery you may add 2 to your
COMBAT SKILL
for the duration of this fight.

If you win the combat,
turn to 316
.

31

To your relief you sense that the dragon is no longer convinced that it is carrying a stowaway. It raises its head and continues its flight towards the construction area which lies close to the main temple. Upon reaching this busy area it hovers above an expanse of levelled ground which is covered with dozens of cargo nets full of blocks awaiting collection by the building teams. A crew of four reptilians guides your net gently to the ground and then swiftly unhooks it from the dragon's harness using long poles.

From the safety of your hiding place you watch as the dragon flies away to collect another cargo. As soon as the reptilians move on to attend to the next delivery of blocks, you leave the net and make your way as quickly as you can towards the main temple.

Turn to 220
.

32

The leading creatures snarl like ravenous wolves as they launch themselves at the entrance to your hiding place. You meet their attack with a flurry of lightning-fast blows which shatters their skulls and sends them tumbling from their skeletal shoulders. Their twitching headless torsos crash to the ground, yet more of their hideous kind pour through the gap and within seconds they are all over you. Claws and talons rake your arms and sides as desperately you fight to free yourself from this nightmare legion.

Illustration II
—Claws and talons rake your arms and sides, as you fight desperately to free yourself.

Chaos-mutants:
COMBAT SKILL
 45   
ENDURANCE
 37

These undead beings are immune to all forms of psychic attack.

If you win this combat,
turn to 129
.

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