11th Day of Meloramensis – Part IV

Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)

Year 781 of the founding of the City

11th Day of Meloramensis – Part IV

Thunderspire Mountain – Hall of Enforced Introspection

The exit led directly into a corridor.  We turned to the left and followed it into the gloom.  The temperature dropped noticeably so that our breath misted in front of our eyes.  Before long I noticed a dark stain on the floor.  After preventing the hapless Vic from blundering straight into it (he was more interested in admiring his new dagger than watching where he was going) I inspected it more closely and discovered that it was a trail of blood.

We followed the trail around several corners until we almost ran into three figures who barred our way as though waiting for us.  Partially translucent all three spectres bore the signs of brutal, and fatal, combat.  The first was a human male, slightly shorter than I, donned in chain-mail.  About his neck he bore the symbol of Kord.  The second was a stout dwarf in a suit of full plate.  The dented and scored breast plate bore the remains of the enamelled symbol of Pelor.  The third was a tall elf wizard, some of the usual grace of his people diminished by the wicked gashes across his face and torso.
            “You seek to test your mettle against the trials of Bahamut.”  Said the human.  “What makes you think you’ll be able to succeed where we have failed.”

A closer look at the three spirits betrayed their relative youth and inexperience.  Their equipment was old and poorly maintained, they bore no comparison to ourselves in terms of ability, experience or indeed numbers.  I pointed this out to the human ghost and he did not seem impressed.  One must wonder why he would ask such a question when he did not wish to know the answer.

Rodney had been gazing past the three figures and into the darkness beyond, his head cocked at an angle as though listening to a sound on the edge of hearing.  Suddenly his focus snapped to the ghost of the wizard.
            “What is the power that whispers through these halls?”  He asked
            “It is the essence of three artefacts.”  The elf replied.  “Three of the four that Bahamut would have you seek; a mask, a bell and a book.”
            “You claimed these artefacts.”  Rodney replied.  It was a statement rather than a question.
            “Those three and the fourth, the blade carried by your leader.”  The elf turned his gaze upon Old Vic who was still engrossed by the gleaming blade.  “We gathered all of the artefacts but we could not place them in the rune circles and complete the task.  The Guardian prevented us.”  He gestured at the fresh wounds upon his torso.
            “Why do you remain here?”  Rodney asked.
            “We seek to aid adventurers worthy to succeed where we have failed.”  The human cut in.  He turned to look upon me his lip curling in a half sneer.       “You are not such adventurers.  We shall wait for others after you have passed into the Shadowfell.”  Without further comment all three spectres vanished, leaving us alone in the cold corridor once again.
            “We should press on.”  I muttered.

Continuing along the corridor we passed through a door to the right.  We entered another corridor, this time brightly lit, which came to an end no more than fifteen feet in front of us at a heavy black curtain.
            “There is no sound here.”  Eligos barely breathed the words but so right was she that they seemed to echo from the walls and ceiling. 

I gestured for everyone to remain still and crept up to the curtain.  I drew forth an arrow and notched it before cautiously pulling back the curtain an inch or so and peering through.  Before me was a large high ceilinged hall resplendent with light.  There was no obvious source for the light but it gleamed from multiple mirrored columns that stretched from floor to ceiling.  In the mirror nearest to me I caught sight of a reflection.  Looking more closely I could make out the canine features of a gnoll.  The creature met my eye and with a sudden movement seemed to lunge from the mirror out into the hall and towards me.  Everything went black.

I wasn’t dead, that much I could tell.  The darkness was all consuming but quickly I realised that something was else was near to me.  The utter silence of the mirrored hall had been replaced by the rasping of laboured breath.  The echo of the gasping told me that I was no longer in a large room and whatever shared the space with me was no more than a few feet away.  I was about to reach into my bag and activate a sun rod when I heard the scuff of boots on the floor right next to me.
            “Interesting.”  Rodney’s voice filled the void and was soon accompanied by a brilliant light, shining like a beacon from the top of his staff.

Light danced around the small chamber revealing the figure of the mage.  He was standing nearly shoulder to shoulder with me but even at such close quarters had been rendered invisible by the thick darkness.  We glanced at each other before our attention was grabbed by the other creature in the room.  It was the gnoll that I had seen in the mirror.  He lay on the floor in an emaciated heap.  Usually proud and fearsome creatures this one was a wretched sack of skin stretched thin over bone and coated in matted fur.  His stink was enough to drive one to distraction.  He blinked in the light before focussing on us.  Mad eyes swivelled in their sockets and flecks of foam dripped from maw to floor as the beast hauled himself to his feet.  It was clear that he hadn’t eaten for some time and myself and the mage looked absolutely delicious.

The creature pounced at Rodney but the mage stopped it in its tracks with a bolt of energy.  As the bolt struck, Eligos appeared suddenly in the room.  With barely a moments hesitation she took in the danger of the situation and charged at the gnoll.  I drew back an arrow and shot it into the beast’s midriff earning a canine whelp of pain and a torrent of blood.  Eligos and Rodney continued to distract it whilst I took careful aim with a second shaft.  This one pierced the creatures heart sending it toppling to the ground before it was able to make further sound.

Our foe dispatched quiet descended on the room.  I scanned around me looking for and exit, none was apparent.  Rodney pressed his hands against the granite blocks and closed his eyes, probing the structure with his mind no doubt.
            “There is no exit.”  He said without a hint of emotion.
            “How did we get in then?”  I asked.
            “Some sort of teleportation spell.”  He replied.  “But without knowing how far and in which direction we need to travel it would be very dangerous for me to attempt to recreate it.”
            “We wait then.”  Said Eligos as she sat down cross-legged in the centre of the room.
            “Wait for what?”  I knew perfectly well what we were waiting for of course but one should never turn down the opportunity for a little healthy sarcasm.
            “Wait for the others to free us.”  She answered matter-of-factly.  I could not resist a wry chuckle.
            “Your faith in them is quite touching.”
            “My faith in them is based upon experience.  Vic and Minron may have let you down in the past but Glen always comes through.”
            “I’ll make some tea.”  Announced Rodney sitting down next to Eligos and rummaging in his pack.

I dragged the stinking corpse of the gnoll into a corner whilst Rodney magically heated water in his kettle.  As we sat in a circle sipping on the mage’s bitter brew Eligos gestured at the slain beast with his cup.
            “How long do you think he’s been down here?”

I did not have to look up from my drink, moving the creature had given me plenty of opportunity to assess his state.
            “Judging by the state of him he’s barely eaten for a month or more.”
            “Surely he would die of thirst long before a month passed?”  Asked the mage.  I nodded towards one of the shadowy corners, near to where the beast had been slumped on our arrival.
            “See over there?” I said gesturing a string of slime mould clinging defiantly to the moist blocks of the wall.  “There’s enough moisture there to keep you going for a while once you get desperate enough.”
            “Well that’s something to look forward to.”  Commented Eligos as she returned to her drink.

We finished our drinks and continued to wait.  Rodney immediately started brewing another round; I think he may be slightly addicted to tea.  Eligos started gathering loose bits of stone from the cracks in the floor tiles and arranging them into precarious piles. 

Suddenly, after what seemed like an age but was probably no more than a few minutes, we found ourselves staring at the curtain marking the entrance to the mirrored hall.
            “We’ve teleported.”  Rodney said before scrambling to his feet and disappearing through the curtain.  Eligos followed hot on his heels leaving me sitting alone next to a piping hot kettle.
            “Don’t worry I’ll tidy up after you.”  I mumbled at their backs before scorching my hands on the piping hot kettle.

I stowed it in my pack as quickly as I could before setting off after them.  I moved through the mirrored hall and around the corner to the left.  The mirrored columns continued for a little while until a second larger curtain partitioned off the end of the room.  As I approached I could hear the voices of my companions and the sounds of a scuffle beyond the curtain.  I pulled the curtain open just in time to see Glen dispatch a mummy to a more permanent death.  It fell to join another, already lying dead on the ground.  They were standing before an alter of Bahamut and Glen looked…different.  His ears were more pointed almost lupine in appearance and tufts of fur had sprouted from his face.
            “What happened to you?”  I asked.
            “I rung that bell.”  He indicated an ivory handled silver bell on the alter.  “It somehow pricked the palm of my hand and a little while later I got this rather splendid addition to my already magnificent facial hair.”

Minron picked up the bell and turned it over gently in his hands to reveal a rune etched on the side of the bell itself.
            “This means change in Minotaur.”  He snorted.  “I don’t like change.”  He handed the artefact to Rodney who had also walked over to have a closer look.
            “Maybe ringing this released us from the chamber.”  He mused.  “other than the physical changes do you feel different?”
            “I feel strong.”  Glen replied.  “More powerful.”
            “Powerful?”  Vic chimed in.  He had once again been preoccupied throughout the conversation inspecting his new dagger.  “Perhaps we should all ring it.”
            “I would advise caut…”  Rodney began before Vic snatched the bell from him and rung it.
            “Caution?  Where did being cautious ever get any..Gah!”  He cried out as the bell pierced the skin of his palm.  He dropped the it and it tumbled towards the ground.  Eligos’ reactions were fast enough to prevent disaster though and the caught it by the handle before it could smash on the flagstones.  In doing so the bell chimed and the skin of Eligos’ palm was also pricked by the artefact.  Not that you could tell from her reaction.  She merely cast a sidelong glance at Vic in reproach for his lack of fortitude.
            “Perhaps we should put that somewhere safe.”  Said Rodney producing a cloth from his pack in which he wrapped the artefact before putting it away.

After a little while Vic and Eligos both doubled over in pain as the changes caused by the bell started to manifest.  Vic’s canine teeth grew.  His nose compressed and hair sprouted from his face.
            “Hey you look a bit like me.”  Glen slapped him on the back.  “My canines came through after a while as well.”  The dwarf flashed the half-elf a vampiric grin as proof.
            “I’ve always preferred an elongated lower canine myself.”  I said grimacing at them to show my own splendid teeth.

Eligos’ skin darkened to take on a rusty hue and fine scales formed around her jaw line and brow.  Most startlingly of all she shrunk by six inches!  She’s still quite tall but very far from happy.  It took the combined efforts of me, Minron and Glen to stop her from teaching Vic a lesson for his clumsiness.
            “I think perhaps we’d better all take a rest and get some sleep.”  Rodney said in an attempt to calm things down.
            “Sleep?  Here.”  I asked my disdain for the notion clear. 
            “Yes.”  The mage did not seem to share my view.
            “You want to take a nap in a place called ‘The Well of Demons?  You don’t think that could be a mite risky?”
            “Hogar some of us need rest.  We are out of sight and with a wall to our backs.  We may not get a better chance.”  Rodney and, with the exception of Glenn, the rest of the group dropped to the ground and set to rummaging through their things.”
            “Rest?  I don’t need rest.  I could carry on slaying these beasts forever.”  Said Glen.  “All you longuns need to get a grip.”   I’m inclined to agree with him but he was summarily ignored.  We’re having a rest.

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