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.

11th Day of Meloramensis – Part III

Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)

Year 781 of the founding of the City

11th Day of Meloramensis – Part III

Thunderspire Mountain – Hall of the Crimson Whip

We pushed through the door and into a brightly lit chamber suffused with a faint red glow.  A sickly iron tang permeated the chamber and invaded our nostrils.  Before us there was a series of platforms separated from each other by channels containing a thick red liquid, blood.

The smallest platform was that upon which we stood.  Jutting immediately from the entrance, there was barely enough room for the six of us to stand upon it.  To our right, on its own small platform stood a large and imposing statue of a minotaur.  Facing it, perhaps fifty feet away from us on the other side of the room was its twin.  Across the centre of the chamber was a large runway-like platform that neatly split the chamber into halves.  In the two corners on the other side of the runway there were pedestals.  One supported a blade the other a hilt.
            “That must be the blade the statue referred to.”  Glen said.
            “I suppose we’d better go and get it then.”  I replied. 

Vic shifted to the edge of the platform.  The blood lapped gently against the tiles threatening to splash his boots.
            “I don’t think we really want to be wading through this stuff.” He said.
            “Then let us try another way.”  I answered whilst shrugging my pack from my shoulders.  I unhooked a length of rope from its fastening and tied one end to an arrow.  Raising my bow high I sent the arrow flying over the shoulder of the big statue on the other side of the room.  Rook, sensing my intention fluttered over to the statue and took the arrow in his beak.  He hopped and fluttered and flew his way around the statue dragging the rope behind him until it was secure, or secure enough at least.  Behind me stood another statue of a minotaur, smaller than the two giants snarling at each other across the room but still a suitable anchoring point.  I tied the other end of the rope to the statue and clambered onto it.  “One at a time.”  I said looking pointedly at Vic.  “I don’t want one of you idiots sending me into the drink.”
            “I’m not waiting for a turn on that death-trap.”  Said Glen and without warning he sprinted at the edge of the platform and jumped towards the nearer of the two larger statues.  He covered the distance with ease.

As I edged out over the pool of blood I glanced back only to see Rodney walking over the surface of the liquid!  He overtook me effortlessly and stepped onto the central runway.  I continued to clamber along.  As I reached halfway Eligos leaned forward to peer into the crimson pool.
            “There are shadows under the surface.”  She said ominously.

I hadn’t noticed them before but now that Eligos had pointed them out I could just about make out slightly darker patches of red moving about under the surface.  This revelation was accompanied by a sudden creaking noise.  The rope started to vibrate madly.  Glancing ahead I could see that the large statue was moving.  It was also covered with large rusty-reddish stains that looked uncannily like old blood stains.  The statues began to pivot at the waist.  In their hands each of them held a thick length of chain that stretched almost to the centre of the room.  As the minotaurs spun the chains clanked noisily as they were dragged along the runway until disappearing under the surface of the pools.

It was clear that when the statues spun with sufficient speed the chains would become deadly lariats which it would be difficult to avoid.  In the meantime the rope suspending me over the nearer pool of blood was becoming more and more taut.  I scrambled hand over hand as quickly as I could until I was able to drop safely onto the runway.  As I did so Rook's rudimentary knot came undone and the rope dropped into the water.

The safe route into the centre of the room gone Minron attempted to follow Glen onto the pedestal of the nearest Statue.  He was not quite able to match the dwarf's jump however and ended up just short of the platform.  As he sunk into the crimson pool the minotaur managed to grab onto the edge of the platform and haul himself up to a solid footing.

Minron and Glen started swinging at the statue immediately in front of them.  Un-slinging my bow I started shooting at the same statue.  Our efforts were insufficient to interrupt the momentum of statues and before long the chains of both statues were whirling around the chamber in a deadly arc.  I was fortunate to have landed on a spot just out of the reach of both lariats.  The fluttery touch of displaced air was all that I experienced as the tips of the chains rushed past my chest.  Glen Minron and Rook were not so lucky.  The chain of the further statue just glanced off Rook as he attempted to fly back to me.  Though not a full blooded blow it was enough to send the raven tumbling into the blood.  Glen and Minron took stiff blows to the head and chest respectively.  Though staggered by the force of the flailing chain the both managed to avoid falling from the platform.

Vic retreated back towards the door and out of the reach of the flails.  As he moved he gestured at the depths of the blood pools.
            “Whatever they are, they’re converging on us.”  He cried.
            “Enough of this.”  Eligos muttered and without another word waded into the blood straight towards whatever stalked us under there.  She continued to move forward until completely submerged.  Minron Glen and I continued to plug away at the nearer statue with little effect.  Seemingly from nowhere a bolt of magic streaked across the room and slammed into the contraption, shattering it into countless pieces.  I turned to see the mage Rodney strolling nonchalantly away.
            “I shall retrieve the blade and hilt.”  He said before skipping away across the surface of the blood.

With one statue destroyed Glen, Minron and Vic moved to try and get close enough to the second to repeat the feat.  Glen one again charged at the edge of the platform supporting him, this time attempting to reach the central runway.  It was not quite so convincing a leap as the first time but he did make it with only the slightest splash of blood on his boots.  As Glen concentrated on regaining his balance a stream of bubbles erupted from the pool in the vicinity of where Eligos has disappeared.  We could see nothing but the movement of feint shadows beneath the surface to mark the Tiefling’s struggles.

Minron landed in our midst a second later.  Vic attempted to follow but was well short of the required distance.  It was only the quick reflexes of Minron which saved him from joining Eligos beneath the surface of the blood.  The minotaur snatched at Vic’s collar and after being submerged for the merest fraction of a second the warlock was hauled onto the runway.

The surviving statue rotated again, lashing its chain across the room.  This time we were all out of range.  Glen took advantage of the opportunity to once again leap out over the pool of blood.  Once again he covered the distance easily, landing gracefully at the feet of the statue and without pause proceeding to batter it with swing after swing of his ugrosh.

Suddenly the blood pools began to boil vigorously to the accompaniment of an unearthly roaring noise.  Rodney had successfully made it to the first pedestal and retrieved the hilt before sprinting back to join the rest of us.  It seems that moving the hilt had caused some sort of reaction.  Suddenly Rook emerged from the boiling blood.  Sodden and dishevelled his indignation radiated into my consciousness. 

From the other side of the runway Eligos erupted to land on her hands and knees on the runway.  She was in as sorry a state as I’ve seen her.  Battered and bruised the blood of the pool mingled with her own as it streamed down her face to drip from her nose and out of the joints in her armour to collect in the cracks of the floor tiles.  She was to gain no respite however as four blood-red demons sprang from the pool to swarm over the her.  One clambered onto her back and sunk his vicious fangs into her exposed neck.

As we shifted to engage with this new threat the remaining statue once again rotated and flung it’s lariat across the room.  Glen, standing as he was at the base of the statue managed to shrug off the attack and continue the steady work of chopping bits from it’s legs .  The rest of us were still out of range but, heedless of who it attacked, the statue did succeed in pulverizing one of the demons.  As the hapless demon was swept away by the lariat, Eligos rose to her feet with a Herculean effort.  She rained down blows on two of the remaining three demons, drawing blood from each and knocking them both to the ground.

As the demons hit the ground a groaning noise sounded from the remaining statue.  Quiet at first, it grew louder until reaching a crescendo as the once proud monument, cut off at the knee thanks to Glen’s efforts, toppled into the blood with a crash.

The distraction allowed Rodney to sprint past us all, over the surface of the blood and to the other pedestal that supported the blade.  As the mage raised the blade from the pedestal all of the blood in the room rushed towards him buffeting our legs as it sloshed over the runway.  Rodney continued to float on the surface but now had to crouch to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling.

The temporary inundation of blood seemed to revive the remaining three demons.  They sprang to their feet and continued their assault on Eligos, quickly knocking the warden unconscious.  They would have killed her but for my well placed arrow that prevented one of them from delivering the coup de grace.   Rodney and Glen both ran back across the bottom of the now empty pool to aid us against the demons.  As the rest of us drove the beasts back from Eligos Minron stepped in to heal the stricken warden.

Ferocious though they were it was a simple matter for Vic and I to pick off the remaining demons whilst the others engaged them up close.  Shortly we had the room to ourselves and Rodney fell to examining the hilt and blade.  The rest of us gathered belongings and tended to wounds.  I noticed for the first time another exit on the same wall as the door through which we had entered but in the other corner.   After examining the blade for a little while Rodney said.
            “Ah!  I think I understand it now.”  He continued muttering something incomprehensible and then pushed the two parts together.  A feint glow emanated from where they butted up against each other until, with a sudden movement they fused together to form a dagger.  As the two pieces combined the deep and loud roar of a minotaur sounded through the walls.  Simultaneously whatever spell was holding the blood in one corner of the room was broken and the foul liquid crashed down in a mighty wave to fill the room once more.  Once calm had been restored Rodney raised the dagger up.
“It has some form of enchantment.”  He said as he passed it to Vic.
            “I’m sure I can make use of this.”  Said Vic, as we made our way to the second door.

11th Day of Meloramensis – Part II

Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)

Year 781 of the founding of the City

11th Day of Meloramensis – Part II

Thunderspire Mountain – The Chamber of the Well

After another trudge through the darkness the tunnel opened out into darkness before us.  In the gloom I could make out floor tiles and a column supporting the ceiling carved with the likeness of a minotaur.  From our perspective it appeared to be casting a sidelong glance towards us, charged with an almost malevolent intent.

In the corner off to my left a shaft of light penetrated the thick darkness to glint off the surface of water, a well.  As Vic moved forward to investigate the deep rumble of a minotaur’s voice emanated from the column, speaking to me in Giantish.
            Greetings, seekers of Bahamut’s boundless glory.  Those who prove unworthy of his attention Shall be claimed forever as his slaves. Those who prove worthy Shall be granted power beyond mortal reckoning. Mask, bell, blade, and tome.”

As the speech came to an end I noticed movement in the depths of the chamber.  A figure came to a stop behind something, a darker shadow in the gloom.  The reflective gaze of undead eyes held mine for a split second before the ghoul unleashed a soulless scream and charged at us.

Vic positioned himself between the rest of us and the ghoul and halted it’s progress with a bolt of energy from his wand.  As he did so the whole chamber began to quake violently.  Debris fell from the ceiling as some of the floor tiles at the edge of the darkness shattered.  A huge many toothed worm erupted from beneath the floor accompanied by countless lashing tentacles.  One of the tentacles lassoed Vic and lifted him into the air.

I began sending arrow after arrow at the creature as the others rushed in to aid Vic.  In their haste they failed to notice as lithe four legged creatures dripped from the darkness into the half-light.  My shouts of warning were engulfed in the din of battle as the demonic creatures fell from the ceiling, flowed from the walls and emerged from the well.  As they closed in on my unsuspecting comrades long forelimbs flashed out in attack.  Their fiercely clawed hands grabbed the throats of Minron, Eligos and Rodney.  Rodney’s attacker was hanging from the top of the Minotaur pillar and hauled the mage from his feet to twitch in helpless suspension.

Minron, Glen and Eligos managed to free themselves and take the fight to these “chokers”.  The ghoul having recovered from Vic’s attack immediately focused on the most vulnerable member of our group, Rodney.  In the confusion of the melee no-one could reach the suspended mage before the ghoul launched himself at the mage and bit savagely into his neck.  Instantly Rodney went limp, hanging listlessly from the choker’s iron grip.

A cry of effort from Vic pierced the din of battle as he tried but failed to break free from the grip of the tentacle holding him.  The worm raised the warlock high into the air and lowered him towards rows of razor sharp teeth in its gaping maw.  Just as his death seemed certain the half-elf simply disappeared from creatures grasp only to reappear at my side.  The worm roared in frustration and its tentacles swirled and lashed around the chamber in a deadly dance.  Those in the chamber threw themselves to the ground and managed to avoid being grabbed by the beast.  Minron sprang to his feet and charged at the ghoul still gnawing away at Rodney’s neck.  The minotaur’s charge sent the ghoul sprawling on the ground, Minron then placed his hand on Rodney.  His healing touch was sufficient to revive the mage who immediately assaulted the choker grabbing him with a thunderous burst of energy

The creatures paused in their assault, perhaps awed by the mage’s sudden ferocity.  This bought Eligos the time she needed to summon forth a miasma of noxious gas around the mouth of the worm before stepping forward into the cloud and savaging it with her flail.  I would like to think that the many arrows I had sunk into the creature contributed to its fall.  But whatever the cause the beast could not stand before the paladin and sank back beneath the ground with an anguished wail.

Everyone in the room, friend and foe alike stood transfixed by the disappearance of the worm.  Minron was the first to recover his senses and used this advantage to dispatch the ghoul with a well placed swipe of his sword.

Three of the chokers remained to menace us.  Glen quickly dispatched one with two flowing blows of his ugrosh and I another with an arrow to the heart.  The one remaining beat a hasty retreat to a crack in the wall just large enough for him to hide in but to small for any of us to reach.  Eligos was his undoing though.  Like an angler casting a line she whipped her flail into the crack.  With a wet thump it caught in his flesh and Eligos ‘reeled’ him in.  As the hapless creature emerged reluctantly from his hiding place we fell upon him as one and ended his miserable existence.

Our enemies dispatched we quickly searched around in the dark for an exit.  There were two doors exiting the room, one to the south and one to the east.  I put my ear to the southern door and could hear the unmistakeable guttural, animalistic laughter of gnolls, probably the sound of our quarry.  We have decided to venture through the other door first to clear any other hostiles from our backs before facing the beasts.