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The Return of Werdna

(c) Copyright by unknown

 

Five years have passed since I captured the mystical amulet from the Mad Overlord Trebor. His agents had only been a few hours ahead of me in obtaining the artifact. The amulet had lain hanging around the neck of a forgotten god's statue in an ancient crumbling Temple. Whose Temple it once was is now whispered faintly only in ancient and forbidden tomes. Never is the full name used, perhaps for fear of invoking something dreadful that might be merely slumbering. The mist enshrouded valley that hides the Temple has been known throughout time as the Gods' Hopyard, supposedly because of a great portal that was opened one night by a demented archmage. It is said in arcane legends that on that night the Gods came here and played. The world shook and mountains danced. The whole sky was afire with shimmering colors. As dawn rose, a gigantic voice suddenly blasted out a harsh command, and everything in the world froze in mid-stride. Then there seemed to be a great inhaling, a loud implosion, and the world moved again. The portal was gone. Who or what chased back the Gods and closed the portal no one knows. It was a long while before anyone was brave enough to venture into the valley to find out what had occurred. It was quite difficult to see, a dense mist now covering the valley edges. In the far end of the valley there loomed a gigantic Temple of a style never before seen. In its center was an altar room wherein stood a statue. Around the neck of the statue hung an amulet that glowed with such magical energy that none could gaze upon it for long.

As to what this amulet is, or to whom it might have belonged, the greatest scholars of the last three millennia have debated. Some feel that it was the focus by which the portal was opened, and any who possessed it could open the way for the Gods' return. Others theorized that it was too powerful to have originated on this worldly plane, and so must have been left behind during the retreat of the Gods. A third group partially agreed with the second; the amulet was not of this dimension, but was used by whatever chased away the Gods. Thus the artifact was more powerful than the Gods themselves! Furthermore, they warned, the Temple, statue and amulet were placed in the valley to seal the portal and prevent the Gods' return. This group was, of course, scoffed at by other scholars, as the implications of their theory was much too disturbing to contemplate.

Over the ages, many thieves and mages have been drawn to the amulet and the legends that surround it. All who have sought to possess it have failed. I, Werdna, the most powerful Wizard of this Age, was always intrigued by speculations about the wonders of the amulet, but was much too prudent to enter the Temple without the proper safeguards. The most infuriating thing to me was no one knew so much as a hint of what those safeguards might be. No one had any idea why each previous attempt into that eldritch vale had met with disaster.

Then one day I was approached by a dealer of dubious antiques. Amongst the obvious fakes and worthless old bones was a scroll that he claimed was over a thousand years old. He assured me that no one had ever opened it, and demanded an outrageous 500 g.p. for the item. Intrigued, I haggled him down to a mere 80 g.p. and took the scroll back to my study. When I attempted to break open the seal, it popped off in my hand! The scroll had been carefully opened and then gently resealed. Making a note to summon a demon to deal with the scurrilous knave, I settled down to study the scroll. It actually seemed quite old and was in very poor condition. The inscriptions were faded and of a tongue quite unknown to me. It took but a few minutes for my arts to restore the lettering to legibility, but it took almost a year's worth of intense research to translate the message.

Wonder of all wonders, the scroll appeared to be written by the apprentice to the wizard who opened the gate that night so long ago. His mind seemed to have been blasted by what he had seen, for only stray bits and snatches of thought were scribbled on the scroll. He kept repeating over and over again something about the glowing eye of THE GOD, which I took to mean the amulet. He also ranted about losing the Mythril Gauntlets entrusted to his care, and groveling for forgiveness from someone or something. The last part of the scroll was filled with dire prophecies and fears for his own eternal torment.

I was filled with hope. If I could correctly follow the clues this document provided, the amulet and all its power could be mine. Now I regretted consigning the soul of the antique dealer to Hell. In the hope that the gauntlets mentioned in the ancient scroll were the means by which the amulet could be handled safely, my agents went into search of them. After many months of seeking, they were able to procure but a single glove. In my gratitude for their obtaining half of a pair of gloves, I only had half of them executed. Well, one gauntlet would have to suffice.

Now armed, I set off for the misty vale in search of my destiny. Alas, mere hours ahead of me, others entered the Temple and absconded with the amulet. At first, I was so shocked to see it gone that I just slumped to the floor. Then I noticed what appeared to be fresh footprints in the thick dust on the floor. I followed them for a short while, but lost them on the hard ground outside the Temple. Racing back to my tower, I used my scrying mirror to show me what had transpired outside the valley, for even my skills could not penetrate that mist within the valley.

Four men shrouded in black robes entered the valley. Shortly, three men left. (I had seen no body, so what happened to the fourth man?) One of the men carried something at arm's distance. For an instant I caught a glimpse of a bluish-gray gleaming glove on the man's hand, then the mirror was blasted into a thousand fragments. He also had one of the fabled gauntlets. The scroll was right! Now I understood why it had been unsealed...that old fraud had made copies of the scroll!

I conjured up two of my favorite demons and sent them to pay the antique dealer's soul a visit. They returned shortly, having "persuaded" the shade to talk. I learned that although the dealer had made five copies of the scroll, he had sold only one of them prior to his demonic dismemberment. The Mad Overlord, Trebor was the owner of this copy. I gathered my creatures about me and cast a Malor to Trebor's Castle. While my pets were keeping the staff quite busy, I cast a Mamorlis spell on everyone in Trebor's audience room. It was quite humorous to see Trebor frozen in abject terror upon his throne. He wore the mystic gauntlet upon his right hand and dangling from that glove was a captured sun, so bright was its radiance. Carefully, I put my gauntlet and plucked the amulet from the cradle of his glove. So as not to seem ungrateful, I did leave Trebor one of the Damien stones I usually carried around with me. They make such fine thoughtful gifts, heh, heh, heh! Calling my servants to me, I cast another Malor back to my tower.

At last, the amulet was mine!!! The power of a universe was at my disposal. Ah, so drunk was I with visions of great and terrible deeds. What to do first? My tower seemed unfitting for a would-be god. Something more splendid, more spacious. Perhaps a split level...no, many levels...ten levels, that's it! Where to put this magnificent edifice? Well, it should be somewhere away from prying eyes and possible thieves, yet not to far from a food source for my hungry pets. Aha, I'll put it under Trebor's nose, literally. I'll build it under his poor excuse for a Castle!

The very next day I started the major invocation. Everything went smoothly until I keyed in to the amulet. I only opened a tiny conduit to it in order to provide more power for my conjuring. What I got was a blast of raw energy that almost vaporized me on the spot. It was a good thing that I had been working behind a shield. The ground beneath the Castle was melted, churned, and twisted out like pulled taffy. When everything cooled, I indeed had my ten level underground fortress maze, although it was much wilder than I had envisioned. That was good, for the backlash of that awesome force had completely obliterated my tower! More than somewhat shaken, I Malored down to my new abode. I had barely tapped whatever lay within the amulet, yet it had almost destroyed me. I vowed never to invoke it again until I could discover how to channel its power.

The five years passed without the amulet yielding up any of its secrets. Oh, I did discover a few small details, like why a gauntlet was necessary. One evening I was preoccupied with my studies, and I asked one of my many minions to fetch the amulet from behind its darkly smoked glass case so I could examine it. Suddenly, I heard a pop and a thud of the amulet dropping to the floor. My servant had failed to put on the gauntlet. When it touched the amulet, the creature had just vanished. That could have been me! After that I kept the gauntlet on the case, so I wouldn't forget again.

Finally, tragedy did strike, but of a different form. I was entertaining a Vampire Lord and several of his liegemen, when the door to my study was kicked open and in burst a wild-eyed team of adventurers bent on my destruction. I was too far away from the amulet to reach it in time, and my pentagram for summoning monster allies was on the other side of the room. I quickly gathered up my energy and began to cast the awesome Tiltowait spell, while my guests rushed forward to my defense. Just as I unleashed that hellish fireball, I saw the Vampire Lord dissolved by a Zilwan spell! So, they had a high mage also. What! They still stood! That's one very tough team. Another Tiltowait should finish them, though. Before I could cast it, the leader of the team stepped in under my outstretched arms and delivered a critical hit to me. As my consciousness faded, I heard one of his men say, "Hawkwind, I have the amulet! Trebor will be pleased." I cursed Trebor with my last breath that he might endure endless torment. My final view was of their black banner bearing both a gold and a silver dragon in bend, and of the amulet dangling from the end of a sword. The darkness claimed me and I slept as unto death.

 

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