Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)
Year 781 of the founding of the City
12th Day of Meloramensis – Part III
Thunderspire Mountain – Hall of the Howling Pillars
With some difficulty we retraced our steps and rejoined the corridor where we had encountered three ghostly adventurers the previous day. As we continued along the gloom Rodney, a miniature ball of flame hovering over his tattooed head as illumination, flicked through the pages of the book he had recovered from the gnoll summoner.
“This text is ancient minotaur.” He said to Minron proffering him the text. “Are you able to understand any of it.” The minotaur did not even turn his head to regard the book.
“Mage, if the text was common, I could read it. If it was in modern minotaur I might be able to read it. As it’s in ancient anything you may as well show me the book of Asmodeus in Barazhad. I’m afraid I have no idea.” The mage’s brow furrowed as he returned the tome to its hiding place within his voluminous blue robes.
“Very well, I will summon the knowledge when I have the opportunity to concentrate.”
We trudged on. The dwarf tottered alongside his porcine companion Sid, his footsteps echoing from the ceiling and walls and reverberating along the tunnel into the distance.
“Zaram.” I hissed. “If you rang a bell and shouted our intentions at the top of your voice you could scare do a better job of announcing our presence here.” Two paces in front of me the dwarf half turned to face me. His ugrosh lay across both shoulders, writs resting upon the shaft to leave his elbows dangling perpendicular to his ears. He sniffed and wrinkled his nose, his orange whiskers rippled across his upper lip and his braided beard swung loosely in front of his tarnished scale shirt.
“Stealth is for timid surface dwellers; elves and humans.” Somehow the way he said ‘elves and humans’ turned the words themselves into an insult. “I prefer to face my enemies. Anyway, it would be no bad thing for me to announce myself. Our enemies will surely quake with fear knowing they face death at the hands of Hammerfast’s greatest warrior.”
“Surely.” I replied, trying to keep the sarcasm from my voice.
After a while the echoes of Glen’s footsteps and the groan of the leather straps holding his armour in place was subsumed by a cacophonous mournful wail from somewhere up ahead.
“Dampen your noise.” I hissed at the dwarf as I trotted ahead silently to investigate. I turned right and followed another corridor until it stopped at a set of black double doors, identical to those that had concealed the gnoll demon summoners.
The doors were sweating.
Condensation seemed to seep from the heart of the ancient wood, forming rivulets that wound a leisurely path down the grain of the wood to drip on the flagstones at my feet. I held the palm of my right hand to the bottom of the doors. A moist warmth rose from the gap between door and floor to disperse amongst the more gelid atmosphere of the corridor. All about me was silence so I decided to open the doors. The merest touch of my fingertips was sufficient for the doors to silently and gently swing away from me. As they did so warm air rushed past me at such a speed and with such force that I blinked at its passing. My skin tingled and beads of sweat formed at my hairline as my body adjusted to the change in temperature. I was confronted with another light ingesting black stone room. What pitiful lustre that did seep its way into the blackness bounced languidly across the walls and ceiling to reveal a suite of three, perhaps four linked rooms supported at regular intervals by uneven nodular columns. I could make out nothing from which the wail that had filled the corridor could have emanated.
I paused in the doorway to await the arrival of the others. Shortly they caught up with varying levels of noise, though all quieter than they had been. Rodney and Eligos slipped past me into the darkness just before Glen, mounted on his Boar barged past to follow them. Eligos rummaged in her pack and drew out a sunrod. She twisted it and raised it above her head. Bright light glinted from the russet scales of the now koboldish tiefling, illuminating her purple robes and leather amour and cascading out to fill the nearest of the four chambers. As the light pierced the gloom another wail sounded out from the pillars supporting the ceiling. Not only that but they recoiled from the luminescence. The light of the sunrod revealed that the pillars were not nodular stone structures but piles of densely packed bodies. The bodies were not whole. Disjointed limbs and torsos jutted from a protoplasmic core that was difficult to discern from amidst the circus of flesh. Heads of all races jutted from the press, their crazed eyes scrunched against the intrusive light as they gnashed their teeth and wailed in protest. The sound of the sunrod crashing to the floor and rolling to one side brought my attention to Eligos as she raised her shield and readied her flail.
“There are demons in there.” She said indicating the nearest column. Minron and I readied our weapons and cautiously followed them into the chamber.
The pillars of flesh had settled into a catatonic torpor. Silence was our only companion as we edged our way amongst the slack limbs to investigate the interior of the chamber. Suddenly the silence was broken by an enraged scream from the pillars. Sinewy, taloned claws struck out from the columns to grasp at us. Minron, Eligos and myself managed to jink clear but Rodney and Glen, together with his mount, were not so fortunate. Grasping fingers palpated across the faces and torsos of my companions, gradually drawing them further into the morass of the ululating mob until they disappeared altogether. Just as suddenly as the column near to us had burst into rapacious action they fell silent and still. But in the still darkened chambers to our rear we could hear the same commotion, undoubtedly from other such columns. Very quickly this noise also dissolved to leave only silence.
“Sid!” Glen’s shout, tinged with panic, punctuated the darkness of the other rooms. “Sid where are you?” His query was answered with a porcine grunt from somewhere else in the gloom.
“Glen?” Rodney’s voice called to add his noise to the dwarf’s. “Are you alright? I’ve emerged near some sort of alter. There’s a mask on it. It must be the one we are after.” I winced at their racket but there was no helping it now.
“For pity’s sake.” I called to them as I nocked an arrow. “Grab the pig, grab the mask and lets get the hell out of here.”
“He’s not a pig, he’s a boa..” Glen did not have time to finish his rebuke before the sound of explosion and smell of sulphur filled the chamber. An otherworldly roar soon followed and I did not have to see the source to realise that it was another balgura demon.
I did not have time to ponder the consequences of this before three evistro carnage demons unfolded from encapsulating flesh of the pillars. Without thought I drew back the arrow readied on my bowstring and loosed it at the nearest blood red homunculus. It struck him a mortal wound to the throat, or so I thought. The little demon simply lowered its bald pate to regard the offending shaft before grasping it in the black clawed fingers of its left hand and tearing it free. I sent three more arrows to follow the first, all of them finding their mark. Though hurt even this was not enough to bring the pint sized monster down. My efforts earned me nothing but the attention of the other evistros as they all hurled themselves at me with murderous intent. I barely managed to avoid their charge before Eligos came to my aid and blocked their progress. Having put herself between me and my tormentors she pressed forward to batter them back towards the darkness of another chamber with her flail. Her vicious assault bought me the space I needed to finally dispatch my initial target and put an arrow into the face of a second.
As the arrow struck Rodney came careering around a corner to join us once again in the first chamber. He was surrounded by semi-opaque halo of flame, non of which seemed to be harming him in any way and carrying a silver mask depicting the face of a platinum dragon, the visage of Bahamut himself. The mage was quickly followed by Glen atop Sid.
“There’s another of those big hairy horned ones!” He shouted before wheeling Sid to block the path of his unseen pursuer. The pursuer was indeed another balgura and the large hairy demon was not alone. He was accompanied another carnage demon. Charging ahead of his larger cousin the carnage demon closed in on Glen but all he got for his trouble was a face-full of ugrosh. The balgura’s attempt to aid the carnage demon was hampered as two bolts of ice arced their way from the palm of Rodney’s hands to strike the demon in the chest leaving behind a sheen of frozen moisture clinging to the beast’s front, visibly hampering his progress. Their leader thus hampered the evistros redoubled their efforts, savaging Eligos and Glen with their claws. Minron bellowed a plea for aid to the Raven Queen and suddenly the area surrounding the minotaur was bathed in white light. This seemed to agitate the anguished forms within the columns who began suddenly to chant in unison in a language I did not recognise. Their bass tones rumbled through the chamber in a rhythmic beat. Steadily rising in volume and pace their ecclesiastical chorus spurred the demons on even further. Glen and Sid proved an effective block against their single foe but Eligos started to struggle up against two of the beasts. Minron bellowed with rage and charged to Eligos’ aid. Crashing into one of the demons he knocked it to the ground. From there it was a simple matter for a well placed arrow to reduce our enemies numbers by one.
Placing yourself directly in the path of a rampaging balgura demon is not normally good for your health, as Glen already knew but the stout warrior continued his defiance of the creature with the help of Rodney. Having recovered from the mage’s icy blast the demon once again charged at the dwarf and his pig. Some quick reflexes managed to keep Glen out of harm’s way and before the demon knew what was going on he was smashed full in the face by the spectral, but all too solid, apparition of a ram’s head. The force of the collision sent the demon careering backwards into the darkness. In avoiding the balgura though Glen had not paid sufficient attention to the chaos demon that menaced him also. A savage swipe of its claws tore through the dwarf’s armour and brought forth steams of blood from his torso. To add to the dwarf's misery the balgura chose that precise moment to come roaring once again from the shadows to attack the dwarf. Amazingly, injured though he was, Glen managed to anticipate that attack and land a lethal slash to the demon's throat. The momentum of the beast was not to be thwarted however and it crashed into the dwarf at devastating speed, impaling him on one of its horns and rendering him unconscious. Glen was now helpless and at the mercy of the chaos demon that had torn open his chest. Just as it appeared that the demon might add to our losses in the Well of Demons Rodney came to his rescue and immolated the demon in a searing gout of flame. This left but a single diminutive chaos demon standing against Minron and Eligos. Minron swatted it to the ground with his shield and I finished him off with an arrow.
Though grievous, Glen's injury was not beyond Minron's ability to heal. Unconscious but alive we lay the dwarf on Sid's back and led the beast back to the stables where Vicrael lay waiting in permanent slumber, there to rest a while.