This is where our story picks up after the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.5…
1.6 The fallen cleric
The small band walked carefully forward into the dark corridor. Shadows cast by their torches danced over another series of intricate murals; Gerotil was predominantly featured in all of them, now accompanied by a long-bearded cleric dressed in green.
“Saint Vornias,” breathed Kathra as they stopped to look at a scene depicting the Gerotil’s chosen summoning a forest to swallow the faithless.
“Not one of the more forgiving prophets,” growled Thorin as he observed a particularly gruesome carving of a fleeing woman being ripped apart by thorns.
“None of them were,” answered Shainarra darkly. She crept towards the end of the corridor and the large room beyond, beckoning the companions to follow.
They emerged into a wide hall that had clearly once been the resting place for the deceased priests of Gerotil. All around them, the smashed remains of stone sarcophagi littered the floor.
“Somebody has been doing some shopping,” murmured Zal’tat.
“The skeletons we found back there probably came from here,” said Nala as she carefully pushed a bit of rubble away from what remained of an open casket.
“There seem to be a lot of empty sarcophagi though,” hissed Siloqui as she peered into the shadows surrounding them.
“I’m guessing that the majority of them exited the crypt before the priest managed to seal it up,” growled Thorin. “The Imperial garrison probably took care of them.”
“Probably,” said Zal’tat.
By now, they had reached the centre of the hall. They could finally see the far side of the open space; in front of them was yet another broken altar and behind it, a large crack in a vegetation-covered wall. It seemed to have been dug up recently and beyond, they could hear the soft whisper of the wind travelling through forgotten tunnels. On either side of the crack, large tangles of roots and vines climbed over the vertical surface in mounds and clumps.
“Well, at least the necromancers left us an easy trail to follow,” said Kathra. She lifted her glowing staff to illuminate the dark opening in the wall.
“C’mon then!” said Grell excitedly moving forward. He quickly grabbed Bane by the scruff of the neck, dragging him away from Nala’s bag (which he had been eagerly sniffing).
“Grell, wait I don’t think-” said Thorin reaching out to stop the young half-orc.
A large iron glove shot out from beneath the dense foliage and grasped for Grell’s throat.
“Gah!” he roared as he brought his axe up in a destructive sweep.
The blade connected with the plating and bounced off harmlessly. A low whining noise of metal scraping against metal filled the chamber. Two hulking figures stepped from behind the curtain of vines and drew their swords.
“Back, back!” snapped Thorin as the two armoured creatures clanged forwards. Darkness stared out from their helmets and rust ate away at their blades.
“They are guardians, mere constructs,” hissed Nala, her eyes glowing with a flow of arcane knowledge, “the suits are empty!”
“Well, if they’re guardians, I’ll give them something to guard!” Zal’tat smiled as he traced a series of odd patterns in the air.
A perfect copy of the tree of Gerotil appeared in the middle of the room. Skeletons milled around it, attacking the trunk, hacking at the branches. The rightmost suit of armour seemed uncaring of this illusion, but its counterpart immediately rushed forward and began swinging at the undead creatures assaulting the sacred tree.
“That’s our chance!”
Siloqui rushed forward and let herself tumble to the floor, right in the middle of the advancing armour’s legs. As she passed through the gap, her companions saw a flash of metal as her twin blades lashed out at the leather straps holding the steel boots in place. She was on her feet in a flash, furiously tearing at the construct’s back. The thing tried to lurch around but instead faltered, its broken boots hindering its movement.
Grell’s red eyes flashed in the dark as his battle-axe came whistling out of the darkness to embed itself in the centre of magical guardian. It staggered and then fell to one knee as Thorin’s maul blasted its right greave into a cloud of reddish dust. A pair of daggers flew out of the shadows to the left, bisecting the glove carrying the sword. It clanked to the ground noisily, immediately turning to scrap metal and rust.
Seeing her opening, Siloqui leapt upwards and with an elegant stab, brought her two swords down into the empty helmet. For a second, nothing happened; then the magic holding the thing together fled. It crumpled to the ground, lifeless once more.
On the other side of the room, the other suit was hacking away at the illusory skeletons while Nala, Kathra and Zal’tat each shone with their particular brand of arcane power.
“Blessings of the Living be with you,” murmured Kathra as she touched each of her companions’ arms, imbuing them with magical accuracy.
Nala stepped forward and once again let forth a purple-green blast of eldritch energy. It seared through the air and collided with the metal armour; violent tremors rippled throughout its figure as dark magic ripped at the very threads of its enchantment. Time seemed to wrap around the clanking guardian, as streaks of rust ran down its body like cracks. Metal whined and the sword’s weight bent the iron glove out of shape. The massive magically animated warrior turned slowly, the illusion dissipating behind it.
Zal’tat grinned, flames blazing merrily around his hands.
Two bolts shot from his outstretched fingers and both pierced through the construct’s breastplate. It stopped and dropped the sword, its hands reaching up towards the wound in an effort to quench the blazing inferno within.
“Boom, Mr. Iron,” said Zal’tat softly.
Light erupted outwards, as flames roared through the interior of the suit, melting metal and incinerating leather. The construct folded in two, molten pools dripping to the floor and cooling around the pieces of broken stone.
For a moment, the silence of the hall was disturbed only by the faint crackling of liquid metal scraping over the floor.
“For an uninteresting hole in the ground, this place has a lot of security,” said Shainarra emerging from the shadows. She bent and picked up her two daggers.
“Something tells me that we aren’t out of the woods yet.” Kathra peered at the crack in the wall; she could now make out a faint blue light glowing from farther along the tunnel.
“Then let’s be careful,” said Nala taking the lead. She quickly caught Thorin’s eye and motioned imperceptibly towards Grell. The dwarf nodded and moved closer to the half-orc.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to get the drop on the next creature we encounter,” the dragonborn warlock whispered as she stealthily led the companions forward into the tunnel.
“No, this isn’t Giksen’s Nature of the Twelve and their Sacred Planes,” grumbled the figure bent over the rickety desk. Behind him, Father Silin pattered past the open door to the Temple’s library, probably on his way to lunch.
The cleric of Thelas carefully closed the manuscript before him and laid it aside, taking the time to write a quick note as to the book’s mislabelled contents. He sighed heavily.
“It’s not my job to run inventory for the priesthood of Gerotil! All I want is a scroll! A journal! Anything! Horatio where in the Twelve Hells did you hide it?”
The young scholar leaned back in the rigid chair, the thought of his mentor casting a shadow on his features. His dark skin and white hair marked him as a man of the south. Although he was indeed of Surthonian descent and had spent most of his life in the fabled port-city, he had been born in the nearby village of Mekliat. The Keep was a familiar sight to him and he had long hoped to see its majestic bastions once more.
“I only wish it were on a happier occasion.”
He’d left Surthoni a few months prior and had travelled without rest to be here in this dusty little room, with countless obscure tomes.
“Searching for something that may not even be here,” he thought tiredly. “Just following the crazy utterances of an impossible dream.”
He sighed again and stood, moving towards the bookshelves at the far end of the library. The floorboards creaked ominously beneath his swishing black robe. He paid them no heed and thrust his hands into the large pile of mismatched scrolls and forgotten documents. His amulet –the symbol of Thelas, goddess of light and knowledge- rested heavily on his breast, a grim reminder of the purpose of his voyage.
“Master, if you left anything here, now would be the time to…” he trailed off as his hands clutched a leather cylinder. It was faint, but he could feel magic seeping past the seams of the sturdy case. His fingers tingled in anticipation and gingerly, he extracted the object from the mess.
It was indeed a scroll case, simple and unadorned save for a small engraving: Thelas’ “arc and compass” above the letter “H”.
“Yes! Thank you master!” he exclaimed happily. Tentatively he popped off the cap of the case and slid the scroll into his waiting hands.
He unrolled it and immediately misty tendril of blueish magic stretched out in the space above him. He gasped softly as the scroll shifted before him, images drifting across it, even as magical runes flared in a sequence to rapid for him to follow.
“What in the name of the Twelve-! Master…what did you find?”
No answer came from the scroll, only light and…a potential.
“The potential to do what?” he pondered, his curiosity burning ever dangerously in his keen mind.
Wondering would do him little good. He had to get out of the Temple and study the scroll in privacy; he didn’t want to risk the wrath of Father Silin.
He quickly tucked the scroll away into its case and strode back towards his desk. Beneath his feet, centuries of rot and misuse finally ended the life of the creaking floorboards. Wood splintered and an instant later, the scholar was gone, lost to the depths of the mountain.
“What is that noise..?” asked Siloqui looking upwards. They had emerged into a small cave of brittle stone. All around them, roots emerged from the ceiling and walls, their tendrils glowing with eerie blue light.
“What noise?” asked Grell curiously.
A loud crash came from above them. Rubble and earth cascaded down into the chamber; the companions rushed backwards, protecting themselves from the spray of stone chips.
Then, a figure fell from the ceiling. He landed heavily on a small pile of gravel and for a moment lay absolutely still. As the companions approached, he coughed and hesitantly dusted himself off. Catching sight of them, he froze and instinctively thrust the scroll case he was clutching deep into he folds of his robe.
“Hail, fellow wanderers!” he began weekly as Grell smiled at him menacingly, “I am a cleric of Thelas…I-i was just consulting the library and-and-“
“You fell through the floor?” asked Shainarra from behind him. He yelped in surprise as the elf emerged from the shadows.
“These caverns are amazingly busy,” said Zal’tat wonderingly, “What is your name, cleric?”
The young man stood up and let some of the light of his goddess shine through his eyes.
“Lohar. Lohar Sapienza.”-
The story continues in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.7…