Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.5

This where our story picks up after the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.4

1.5 Bones and rust

In the meantime, Siloqui -who had ignored the squabbling- had moved towards the opening the dragonborn had been studying. A heavy metal grate was blocking their access to a passage that moved further into the mountain. A quick examination revealed it to be controlled by a series of gears set into the walls on either side.

“I think we’re going to have to find whatever opens this,” she said loudly.

Grell moved forward eagerly and grabbed the bars in his burly hands. Smiling widely, he strained against the heavy metal. He actually succeeded in slightly bending one of the bars, but soon the effort proved to be too much.

“These are some…sturdy pieces of crap…,” he gasped bending downwards.

“Not surprising,” said Thorin ruefully moving forward, “This is good craftsmanship. You can say what you want about the Twelve, but they employ only the best.” He gave the bars an experimental flick with his finger.

“Well, there are two other doorways to the north and south,” said Kathra peering at the dark openings in the rock, “I imagine the levers will be there somewhere. It’s a common ritualistic practice in the treatment of a body after death. Initially it passes through the Hall of Change where we are now. Then the priests embalm it and finally the body is purified by the light of the Twelve for its journey to the afterlife.”

The druid’s words caused them to look around room. On the walls, they could now make out various murals depicting the progression of life under the guidance of the Twelve Gods. Gerotil himself called the faithful into the world, while his divine brothers and sisters either aided or hindered the mortals on their long trek towards the grave. The murals leading to the right passage depicted a priest caught in the act of wrapping a body in linens. The left mural depicted the goddess Thelas, shining her radiance down on the deceased.

“I guess we know which is which,” said Zal’tat cheerfully. “Shall we check them one at a time or shall we split up?”

“I’ll take the right side!” yelled Grell. Before anyone could retort, he quickly shot forward and vanished into the dark corridor beyond. Bane whined once and then quickly followed.

“Gods, that kid is going to be the death of me,” growled Thorin as he unstrapped the hammer from his back and ran past the rest of the party. Soon, the dwarf had also vanished into darkness.

“Will they be ok?” asked Kathra worriedly.

“They’ll be fine,” shot Shainarra striding in the opposite direction. “So, shall we take the left?” she whispered, as her form seemed to meld with the shadows.

“What would you like to do, Lady Nala?” asked the gnome cavalierly.

The silver-scaled dragonborn looked at the rest of the party critically. “I think that it’s best if at least we remain together. I think the soldier and the barbarian can handle themselves.”

A roar and a crash punctuated her words. She turned hesitantly towards the right corridor.

“They do have the dire wolf with them,” added Siloqui helpfully.

“True. All right, let’s see what the left passage has in store for us,” said Nala striding towards Shainarra’s shadowy form.

***

Grell eagerly looked around as he erupted into the dimly lit Hall of Embalming. In front of him, three stone tables lay side by side covered in strips of white linen and bottles of scented oils. The aromatic scent washed over the half-orc and he sneezed loudly. Bane pattered up behind him and quickly brought his snout to the ground, as countless exotic smells invaded his sensitive nose. Thorin arrived shortly after, moving as quickly and quietly as his chainmail would permit.

“Listen,” he hissed grabbing the small barbarian by the shoulder, “you can’t just go rushing off like that! It’s dangerous down here; you don’t know what might be behind the next corner. We need to stick together!”

“Don’t touch me old man,” Grell answered, shaking him off angrily, “I do what I want. I’ve never met anything so far that Bane and I can’t beat. I don’t need your help.”

A creeping sound of rattling bones from the far corner caused the two to look up.

A single animated skeleton clothed in a torn tunic, holding a rusty sword and shield was slowly advancing towards them, its severed jaw hanging from a half-crushed skull.

“Right lad, listen: we attack on-”

“YES!” roared Grell happily, the red light in his eyes blazing furiously as he jumped on to Bane and charged the undead creature.

“-three,” finished Thorin weakly. Sighing, he gripped his battle hammer and cautiously moved after the young barbarian.

When Bane’s galloping had taken him halfway to his quarry, Grell clumsily stood up on the dire wolf’s back and balancing precariously, brandished his war axe high above his head.

“Hey! I’ve got a bone to pick with you!” he roared. Once he was level with the advancing skeleton, he leapt, swinging his axe down at the undead warrior’s skull.

Unfortunately, he had sorely misjudged his trajectory and instead of landing on the monster’s torso and beheading it as he had intended, the half-orc sailed past and crashed to the floor. His axe skidded harmlessly away and smashed into a far wall.

“Shit,” Grell spat as the skeleton turned towards him, raising its sword to strike.

“FOR CLAN SHADDAK!”

In a single blinding movement, Thorin leapt over one of the stone tables and brought his maul around in a perfect forward sweep. The blow connected with the skeleton’s already-damaged skull, which was sent flying at top speed towards the wall where it exploded in a shower of bone chips. The rest of the undead soldier immediately crumpled to the ground, lifeless once more.

“Are you all right lad?” said the dwarf, thrusting out a hand to help Grell to his feet.

“Wow…That. Was. Awesome!”

The half-orc was ecstatic. The old soldier was sure he could feel the child’s admiring gaze on his back while they searched the chamber for loot and the mechanism.

“Found it!” said Grell happily, grabbing a steel bar that jutted out of the wall and pulling it.

Immediately they heard a soft grinding noise coming from the chamber behind them.

“Good work lad,” said the dwarf gruffly, “let’s go see how the others have fared.”

***

The small group emerged cautiously into the Chamber of Purification. Shainarra was almost invisible in the long shadows; even Siloqui had to squint to make her out in the light of the guttering torches. The chamber was less dusty than the rest of the crypt; an altar of white marble had been placed against the far wall on which the familiar symbols of Thelas and Gerotil had been carved into the wall and adorned with gold leaf.

“Ehm guys? I think I found those undead Father Silin was talking about,” said Zal’tat pointing at two shambling figures that had been leaning against the right wall.

“Skeletons,” murmured Siloqui appraisingly. She quickly stored her bow and drew two wicked-looking knives.

“This should be interesting,” said Nala. Her eyes grew dark, as plumes of eldritch magic curled menacingly around her hands.

Kathra said nothing, but mumbled something under her breath, quickly touching Siloqui’s blades. They immediately sparked with silver light.

“That ought to give you a bit of an edge,” said the druid drawing her own blade as the two undead moved closer.

“Here I go,” breathed the shadow among shadows. Shainarra emerged from the darkness, her knife suddenly flashing in the torchlight. Before the right skeleton could realize what was happening, her blade had sliced through its shield-arm. The corroded metal disk fell to the floor, carrying the bony appendage with it.

In a second, Siloqui had joined the fray. Ducking under the wide slash of the skeleton’s deadly scimitar, the plains-elf twisted behind it and with a single expert movement, bisected its exposed spine. The thing sighed hoarsely and then let go of life, its bones clattering dully to the ground.

On the other side of the room, Nala strode forward purposefully. She thrust her arm outwards and waved at the bony warrior advancing towards her. Violet energy erupted from her open palm and exploded into the skeleton, sending it crashing into the marble altar. The impact seemed to have weakened it; nonetheless, it shakily stood up on its cracked femurs and shuffled forward once again.

“Zal’tat, I’ll aid you!” said Kathra, touching the gnome’s shoulder. A cool breeze of natural energy moved through the gnome; his new powers beckoned to him.

After all, wasn’t he a sorcerer now?

Drawing magic from the currents of possibility around him, the gnome shot a single blast of fire past the dragonborn’s ear and into the grinning skull’s eye-socket.

The thing seemed to falter and sway. Giddy with power, Zal’tat strode forward and sent three more bolts exploding into its weakened form. As the third streak splashed into its jawbone, it shattered, littering the floor with broken fragments and rusty armour.

“That was really easy!” exclaimed the sorcerer happily. The others smiled; even the shadowy thief cracked a well-hidden grin.

Going through the few chests in the chamber revealed only a few pieces of gold and a small pouch of exotic spices.

“I’ll hang on to these,” said Nala as she slipped the aromatic bag into her pack, “I’m a fairly good cook.”

They found the lever behind the marble altar and after having pulled it, returned to the Hall of Change. Grell and Thorin were waiting for them by the now-open passage.

“Any trouble?” asked Siloqui as they strode into the corridor beyond.

“No, not real-” began the dwarf.

“It was soo cool! There was a skeleton! And Thorin exploded its head with his hammer…” jabbered Grell excitedly.

Nala stiffened slightly as she felt something wet press against the back of her leg. Slowly she looked down. Bane looked up into her eyes longingly, his large nose snuffling at her pack. “I guess I’m not the only one who has a thing for spices,” she murmured softly. She patted the dire wolf on the head and quickly strode forward to catch up with the others.-

The story continues in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.6

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