13th Day of Meloramensis – Part I

Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)

Year 781 of the founding of the City

13th Day of Meloramensis – Part I

Thunderspire Mountain – The Proving Grounds

We retreated to the stables.  Rodney wasted no time in summoning a light and sitting down in a corner to translate the book he had recovered from the gnoll summoner.  Minron sat beside the slumbering Glen to tend his wounds whilst Sid snuffled anxiously nearby.  As Minron and Rodney worked, Eligos and I busied ourselves by lighting a fire, putting a kettle on to boil and dishing out some trail rations.  As we rummaged through our supplies she turned conspiratorially to whisper to me.
            “This form,” she glanced down at her torso, “I think it’s starting to change me.” 
I looked up from searching for a biscuit that I was sure was in my pack.   “Well you certainly look different,” I replied.  “Not that you look bad,” I added quickly.  “Which is not to say you didn’t look perfectly n…?”
            “I’m not talking about the way I look you stuttering fool.” She hissed, “I’m talking about the way I am.  I’m starting to feel sort of, well, koboldish.”
            “And how does a kobold feel exactly?”  I asked irritably, stung by her rebuke.
            “I find that I’m drawn to darkness.  Just lighting that fire caused me to recoil.  When I have an enemy at my mercy I want to tear him limb from limb.”
            “It’s not like any of us show mercy to our enemies Eligos,” I offered.
            “No but this is different.  Normally it’s just something that has to be done and I do it.  Now it’s starting to feel… pleasurable.” 
She was clearly very troubled by these changes so I did my best to put her mind at ease.  “When we get out of here we’ll go straight to that old duffer Silverkin and see if he can’t cure you.  In the meantime you’re doing fine.  If you hadn’t told me of this I’d never have guessed but now I know I’ll keep an eye out, make sure you remain in control.” 
She looked a little dubious but somewhat reassured I think.  She’s stMinrong willed that one.  If she can’t hold off whatever it is that’s affecting her then no-one could.
We brewed a cup of the tea that Rodney likes so much and scraped together some food.  I risked disturbing his concentration to take some tea over to the mage.  As I placed the steaming mug in his hands I enquired as to how his work was going.
            “Summoning the understanding of a language from the astral plane can be taxing and more than a little dangerous but so far so good.” he replied in-between reticent sips of the hot liquid.
            “Anything interesting so far?” I asked.
            “No.  Just some simpering platitudes to Orcus, Belor and other vile gods.” 
            “Are the other artefacts in there?” I asked, gesturing at his bag.  He indicated that they were.  “May I?” I asked indicating that I’d like to examine them.
            “Of course, just be careful with them.” 
I took the knife, the mask and the bell and laid them on the floor.  They seemed to almost pulsate with malevolent energy.  “So these will open the way to the trial that awaits us down here.”
            “As long as I can find something in here that tells us how to open the way.” Rodney replied.
I left Rodney to it and went to try and get some sleep whilst Minron watched over Glen and kept a lookout.  When I awoke the dwarf was awake and scratching Sid under the chin whilst feeding our rations to him.
            “Fattening him up are we?” I asked whilst rising to a sitting position.  He flicked his eyes sidelong towards me in a reproachful glance.
            “Funny.”  In reprimand Glen reached into my pack and pulled out a trail biscuit which he promptly fed to the boar.  “There you go Sid.  This is nasty Hogar’s way of saying sorry.”  I hauled myself to my feet and headed off to see how Rodney was getting on.
            “I’m glad to see you looking better master dwarf.”
The mage was rather excited, or at least as close as I have yet seen him.  Not only does the book contain instructions on how to progress through the Well of Demons; it turns out that the figures in the pillars we encountered yesterday were past adventurers in the Well of Demons whose essence had been bound to the room where they died.  What’s more the book contains instructions on how to reverse the spell which should release the figures contained within and even return them to life.  Clearly we had to give it a try so we packed up our gear and made our way back to the chambers.

We twisted sunrods in preparation for the gloom this time.  As we entered, a line of torchbearers cutting through the darkness, the deformed body parts within the columns shied away from us.  We stopped in the centre of the room, out of reach for any flailing limbs and formed a circle around the mage facing outwards.  I heard the faint flop of a weighty tome falling open, swiftly followed by the hum of Rodney’s voice.  He spoke quickly in a language that I did not recognise.  His ululating tone grew to a clamour and from over my shoulder I could just make out a vaguely purple glow.  This same mauve luminescence started to emanate from the compressed spaces between the bodies within the pillars.  All of the heads within the morass of flesh turned up towards the ceiling and began to howl in unison with the mystical tones of the mage.  Gradually the purple light blinded me to all else and the howls from the pillars turned to agonised screams, accompanied by the sound of tearing flesh and popping bones.  Just as the noise reached a crescendo it stopped, the light faded and the pillars were gone.  In their place was a sea of prostrate bodies almost carpeting the floor.  Naked as the day they were born they began to rise as if from slumber.  Slightly unnerved at suddenly being surrounded by a hundred or so people; mainly humans, a few halfings and a smattering of more exotic races, we almost subconsciously readied our weapons.  We needn’t have worried.  These people were not of a malevolent mood.  Even if they had been they were too addled to have been a serious threat, especially as they were all without clothes or weaponry.
Confused, humiliated and more than a little angry this mob wanted nothing as much as to be out of here.  We, all of us, offered up our bedrolls to be cut into strips of cloths to be used to preserve the modesty of as many of the newly freed rabble as possible.  Even so there are going to quite a few blushes in the Seven Pillared Hall on their return, from both the fugitives and the hosts I imagine.  One amongst their number did take an interest in how he had come to be free.  A dragonborn sorcerer called Krevath.  He wasted little time in marching up to Rodney and questioning the mage on how he had managed to translate the tome.  He was even so impertinent as to question the reliability of Rodney’s translation and suggest alternative methods which he considered obviously better.  I suppose that’s gratitude for you!
            “I think I shall accompany you to the well,” he declared after quizzing a reluctant Rodney for several minutes, “I should like to see what lies beyond the Well of Demons.”
            “If your going anywhere with me then the first thing you need to do is find some clothes.” Eligos called from across the room, her distaste for the dragonborn evident.
Glen was dispatched, mounted upon Sid, to ride back to the room where the defeated gnoll summoner lay and fetch something for Krevath to wear.  He returned a short while later with some robes and a staff he had managed to loot from a stash somewhere.  Thus prepared we made our way back to the central corridor of the well where the circles of power were located.  When we arrived Rodney handed out the artefacts.  Minron took the dagger, Glen the mask, Eligos the bell and the book Rodney kept himself.
            “We need to place these in the circles at the same time,” Rodney instructed, “so wait for my call before placing them.  Hogar, I would be grateful if you would accompany me.” I nodded my assent. 
Krevath drew breath as if to mutter something, probably an ‘improvement’ on Rodney’s plan, but Eligos interrupted before he could give voice to his thoughts.
            “You can come with me dragon-man.  I want to make sure you don’t cause us any trouble.”
We went our separate ways.  Rodney and I picked our way through a dusty corridor.  Scattered about the floor at an alarmingly regular interval were mouldering skeletons which looked like they had been there for some time.  Shortly we found the circle of pulsating magical energy which we sought.  The glowing blue disc was roughly the height of a man in circumference and traced some sort of runic pattern on the floor.  If it had any meaning it was completely obscure to me.  Rodney produced the book from somewhere within his robes before calling out to the others with a clear strong voice.
            “On the count of three place the artefact in the circle.”
            “Hang on,” Glen’s voice floated back, “are you going to count up to three or down from three?”
Rodney sighed. “I’ll count down from three.  Three…”
            “Hang on!” Glen’s urgent tones sounded out again. “Are we going to place the item in the circle as you say ‘one’, after you’ve said ‘one’ or are you going to say something else like ‘now’ when we’re supposed to place it?”
Rodney almost imperceptibly clenched his jaw before replying. “I’ll say ‘now’ after ‘one’.  As I say ‘now’ place the artefact in the circle.”
Eventually we managed to get all of the artefacts placed in the circles at the same time.  The book blazed with a magical light of brilliant intensity before disappearing altogether, along with the magic disc.  As the book disappeared a door someway to our right swung open with tremendous force banging loudly on its hinges.  Through the murky corridors we heard Eligos’ voice call out.
            “Krevath!  Get back here!”
Her only response was a deep menacing serpentine roar, loud enough to make the entire chamber quake.  Rodney set off in the direction of the roar, dodging between the skeletons strewn across the floor.  Suddenly one of the skeletons jerked to life, or at least un-death, and grabbed the mage around the knees.  I quickly drew an arrow and shot it into the creature’s ribcage.  As usual the presence of iron reduced the necromantic magic that animated the bones.  Unusually all of the skeletons in the area raised their heads to let out a howl of pain.  I sent another arrow to follow the first.  It had the same effect which was sufficient to allow Rodney slip the grasp of his captor.  Thus freed the mage released a wave of energy which sent the skeleton crashing into the far wall.  Satisfied that these skeletons posed little threat, I took the opportunity to run past, through the open door and back into the main corridor.  As I rounded the corner I encountered Eligos and Krevath.  Blood was pouring forth from Krevath’s ears and he was looking a little worse for wear.  They were standing in a doorway between a wide corridor and a medium sized room with a towering ceiling.  Another serpentine roar sounded out from the lofty heights.  I looked up to see a young dragon hovering under heavy wing-beats.  He was perhaps twenty feet from tip of nose to tip of tail and bright burnished copper in colour with a gleaming almost liquid green tinge to the scaled ruffles around his throat and neck.  Clutched in his talon was the flailing figure of Minron.  Light glinted from the minotaur’s sword and his scarlet cloak fluttered behind him like a wing of his own as he flailed and stabbed at the creature’s foot. 
I drew forth an arrow and paused to take aim.  I loosed and the arrow arced upwards towards the dragon’s heart.  The dragon was nimble though and managed to dodge to one side.  Even though it did not strike home, the arrow was enough of a distraction for Minron to land a blow on the opaque webbed tissue of the dragon’s wing.  This cut disoriented the dragon sufficiently that he spiralled to the ground, releasing Minron as he did so.  As the duo hit the ground Glen came charging into the chamber from the opposite end to me and slashed the dragon with his ugrosh.  Krevath and Eligos wasted no time in piling the pressure on the confused beast, casting a spell over him and charging in, weapon raised, respectively.
            His confidence shaken by this sudden onslaught the dragon sprang back into the air flew over Glen’s head and out of the chamber.  As the dragon disappeared around the corner I saw Glen lean over in his saddle as if to vomit.  I didn’t stay to pay too much attention to the dwarf however; instead I ducked out of the room and back into the corridor where I found myself face to face with the dragon.  I shot him in the chest but this had little effect other than focusing his evil intent upon me.  The copper lizard rose up on its hind legs and drew breath.  Pouches either side of his throat expanded, ready to spit his venom over me no doubt. 
My saviour was Minron at full sprint.  He had followed the dragon’s rout out of the chamber and now with his shield raised in front of him he leapt into the air and crashed into the serpent’s back, right between his shoulder blades.  The dragon lurched forwards to land back on all fours.  There was no respite for the creature as Glen and Sid once more appeared just behind Minron to strike the dragon again.  The sorcerer Krevath appeared at my side and summoned a fireball which he hurled into the dragon’s face prompting screams of pain from the creature.
The dragon was not done though.  Once again it hauled itself onto its hind legs, this time to face Minron and Glen.  The skin at its throat bulged as before and he unleashed a torrent of acidic venom over the two fighters.  The liquid ate at the flesh and armour of the two unfortunate fighters, giving rise to plumes of smoke as their flesh dissolved.  Even as I sent two further shafts into the dragon’s back Minron resisted the pain of the dragon’s savage attack to plunge his sword into the beast’s abdomen.  As the young dragon doubled over in pain Minron dropped his shield, reversed his sword over his head and plunged the blade with two hands into the top of the dragon’s skull.  The dragon opened its maw in a final scream and sprayed venom over the walls before collapsing and falling silent for the last time.  Minron hauled his blade free, wiped it clean on the soft flesh of the dragon’s throat and sheathed it.  Then he drew his dagger, pulled up the dragon’s lip and started to saw at one of its fangs.  I was about to ask him what he was doing when Rodney appeared out of the chamber where the dragon had appeared cradling an egg that was nearly the size of his torso.
            “Any idea what we should do with this?” he asked. 
            “It would make a hell of an omelette.” Glen replied.
            “I’m surprised that you can think of food,” I said, “didn’t you throw up back there?”
            “Yeah,” he answered, wiping his lips with his sleeve, “some sort of blue man came out!”
            “A what?” I asked
            “It was an elemental sprite.” Eligos offered, “I took care of it.”
            “Remind me not eat anything that you’ve cooked ever again.” I said to the dwarf.
            Rodney looked at the egg and frowned, “I think I’ll just keep it.” he said.
            “You can’t carry that with you in here!” Krevath exclaimed, “How will you defend yourself?”
            “Oh don’t worry,” Rodney assured him, “I can make it disappear and reappear again.”
Before Krevath could ask another question we heard the sound of stone grating over stone behind us.  Part of the wall had slid open to reveal a dark passageway.

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