Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.4

This is where our story picks up after the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.3

1.4 The tree and the Warlock

Father Silin stared quizzically at Shainarra from beneath his fuzzy-caterpillar eyebrows.

“You look very familiar my dear,” murmured the elderly priest as he accompanied them down the nave towards the entrance of the crypt. “Were you here last Gerotil’s Day?”

The thief shifted uncomfortably beneath her dark cloak. She carefully ignore the question and instead let her eyes casually rove to the other end of the temple.

The most sacred sanctuary of Gerotil –the god of life- had been dug out of the mountain countless centuries ago. Once the prophets had finished travelling Dersorrah to spread the word of the return of the Twelve from exile, they had devoted themselves to building sumptuous temples worthy of their masters. St. Vornias had supervised the construction of this Temple himself, as well as the fortress that surrounded it. Legends stated that the saint himself was buried somewhere in the underground labyrinth.

The sanctuary itself was a simple affair, roughly carved out of rock. Two large stone doors led from the external terrace into the central nave. On either side, two smaller aisles ran towards the centre of the mountain and the raised altar behind which the Tree of Gerotil stood wreathed in the light of a singular stained glass window. The tree was unlike any other the party had ever seen; its bark was silver and its leaves were a peculiar shade of iridescent blue. A soft light emanated from the twisted branches bathing Father Silin in an otherworldly glow.

The thief from Dereillon froze briefly in her tracks as her gaze focused on the altar; the Cup of Gerotil was gone! She forced herself to move forward as naturally as possible, shifting her attention to the tree.

I need to find that damned cup!

Thieves Guild contracts were notoriously well payed; the more valuable the object the higher the reward. The catch was that failures were punished. And the bigger the failure…She shivered despite herself.

“I’m very happy that Zigarn finally got a move on and sent some people to clean up this mess! It’s embarrassing you know: the temple of Gerotil beset by the undead! Unheard of!” grumbled Father Silin as he shuffled slowly towards a small gated passage leading down into the mountain.

“We are happy to be of service,” answered Thorin easily. The old soldier was starting to feel better as he passed from useless waiting to action. He was a little worried about the younger member of their ragtag group: the half-orc was proving to be quite a handful.

Grell had rode his dire wolf pup all the way from Imperial HQ to the terrace of the Seat of Gerotil, terrorizing various inhabitants of the Keep and a few soldiers as well. Now, Thorin could see that the child’s attention was fixed on the tree behind the altar. Looking about, Grell quietly moved past the elderly gnome and crept up the steps of the dais.

“What kind of undead have been emerging from the crypt exactly?” asked Zal’tat as he moved towards the dark opening that led down into the mountain. He stopped when he noticed a sigil glowing with green light on the stones in front of him.

“The usual: skeletons, zombies…a few spectres. Nothing you can’t handle I think,” mumbled the priest as he looked the two elves up and down. “I would ask as well, that while you’re down there you keep an eye out for the Chalice of Gerotil.”

“Oh?” said Shainarra nonchalantly, “You lost it in the crypt?”

“Lost?! I would never lose the Chalice!” The gnome shook from head to toe with indignation. “I, young lady, am a Priest of Our Lord Gerotil. Tasked with defence of His most holy tenants. The Chalice has been in my care for over one hundred years-“

I thought I smelled something old,” whispered Grell to Bane as he stealthily scuttled underneath the branches of the tree.

“-and I will keep caring for it until He takes me to His halls.”

“I’m sure my colleague didn’t mean any insult Father,” said Kathra diplomatically, “I think what she meant to simply enquire as to what happened to the relic.”

“Well! It all started when that thief broke into the Temple three nights ago.”

All eyes –save for Silin’s- slowly sidled towards Shainarra who pointedly ignored them.

“Thankfully, a good soul noticed her sacrilege and knocked her out. They then warned the guards and myself. I’d just returned from Zigarn’s office when I found the Chalice gone and the doors to the crypt open. One day later the dead began to pour out.”

“I see,” said Thorin moving to stand beside Zal’tat.

“All right! I’m now going to remove the sigil so you can enter the crypt. Once you are at the bottom of the stairs take a right at-WHAT IN SHAKRESH’S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”

They all whipped around in time to see Grell swing happily from one of the tree’s many branches. Silin immediately rushed up past the altar, hopping every second step.

“Get down this instant! Stop this sacrilegious behaviour at once!” He wrung his hands in desperation as the half-orc gripped on to the branch with his legs and let himself hang upside down. Bane whined sulkily among the roots of the tree but didn’t move.

“This really is a great tree,” said Grell happily, swinging back and forth. “Where I come from there are only pines and those suck.”

“Please, I beg you!” pleaded the priest.

“Oh, fine. Let’s get on with it,” growled the barbarian letting himself fall lightly to the ground. “C’mon Bane. Let’s go kill some stuff.” The Dire wolf skipped to his master’s side wagging his tail.

“Right. Good. Into the tomb with you!” snapped Silin, still shaking with barely suppressed fury. He made a few complicated passes over the glowing symbol with his hands and it dissipated.

“After you,” said Zal’tat smiling widely.

Without a word, the two elves padded down the stairs and into darkness, soon followed by the rest of the party. Behind them, they could see the light reflecting off the priest’s bald head. Then, they turned a bend and only their torches stood between them and the creeping shadows.

***

After a few minutes of navigating the dusty corridor, they emerged into a large circular room illuminated by the flames of two guttering torches. There was very little in this chamber save for a cloaked figure who was attentively studying a door on the far wall.

“You!” called Siloqui drawing an arrow and notching it to her bowstring, “Turn around slowly and put your hands where we can see them!”

The figure paused and slowly rose from its crouch. The party stared as the shadowy personage turned and the fire’s light reflected off her silver scales. Grell gasped softly as the stranger cast back her hood, revealing the noble countenance of a dragonborn lady. She was equipped with a simple suit of leather armour and carried a staff and pack. The scaly ridges on her head travelled all the way to the back of her skull where they gave way to a series of long dreadlocks, each adorned with a bead of a different colour.

She smiled at them warmly and bowed her head slightly.

“Greetings. I am Nala Zarg. I’m sorry if my presence startled you.”

“Well met, Ms. Zarg,” said Zal’tat kindly, utterly impervious to the mistrusting expressions on the faces of his companions. “I am Zal’tat Spindlefoot, at your service and-“

“Shut up, gnome,” snapped Shainarra drawing a dagger and moving to flank the stranger. “And you, dragonborn: I suggest you tell us how you came to be in a sealed-off crypt overrun by the undead. Don’t try anything funny; I’ve had a pretty bad day and I’m looking for an excuse to kill something.”

“Me too!” Grell exclaimed waving his battle-axe enthusiastically.

“Enough!” growled Thorin, shooting a warning glance at the thief and the barbarian. “Please Ms. Zarg, I would ask that you provide us with an honest explanation; your people are not much-trusted these days.”

“Gladly,” said Nala, pretending not to have noticed the hostile behaviour. “You have nothing to fear from me; I am not a member of the Draconic Uprising. On the contrary, I am on a secret mission for a member of the Draconic Council. I am to secure peace between Clan Zarg and Doriaq Detorak. I was on my way to Ra’Thelas when the documents I carried were stolen. I traced the thieves to the Keep and then to this crypt. I must recover those documents if there is to be any hope of stopping this war.”

Shainarra stared at the silver-scaled woman incredulously. “And you expect us to believe that? How did you even get into this crypt? And who are the people that stole your documents?”

Nala grinned toothily. “I have my ways; there is more than one way into the crypts of Gerotil. I suspect the thieves were members of the Draconic Uprising. Should the peace treaty reach the Emperor, the Clans Myastan and Shetor would be forced to negotiate.”

“Do you really trust this person?” growled the thief.

“Yup. Completely,” said Zal’tat and quickly trotted over and bowed deeply before the dragonborn. “If you need anything my lady, you have but to ask.”

“Thank you Mr. Spindlefoot.” She smiled.

“What do you think, dwarf?” Shainarra asked Thorin, “Is she trustworthy?” “No more than you are,” he answered. He strode away. Leaving the elf momentarily speechless.-

The story continues in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.5

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