Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.8

The story continues from where it left off in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.7…

1.8 The tomb of St. Vornias

Once Lohar had caught up, the party advanced further into the ancient tunnels beneath the Seat of Gerotil. Humid air slowly gave way to dust and cold currents that seemed to radiate from the depths of the mountain. They crept carefully along the winding passages, the faintly glowing roots shedding their eerie blue light above their crouched frames.

Once during this slow exploration, Grell found himself tempted by the mystical plant-life and hesitantly stretched out a hand to touch a low-hanging tendril.

“Careful!” hissed Nala, snatching his hand away. “These are the roots of the Tree Life, the same that you tried to climb earlier. They search for nourishment underground; don’t touch them unless you want to become their next meal.”

Grell grudgingly turned away. But later, when no one was looking, he quickly reached out and brushed his hand over a lone root. Blue sparks shot up his arm and he immediately jumped backwards as something reached out and tried to suck the life force from him. He shook his hand repeatedly; slowly the feeling returned to the tips of his fingers, as the supernatural cold dispersed.

Sometime later, they emerged into another long hallway, lined with columns and more murals depicting the life of St. Vornias. Proceeding carefully, they reached the middle of the large space, at which point Siloqui motioned them to stop.

“I don’t like this,” she murmured squinting at something in the shadows.

“Another battle, lass?” asked Thorin clutching his weapon and shifting into a combat stance.

“No…I think this is something different. Shainarra I need your assistance,” she said striding forward and crouching a few meters away. The thief moved cautiously to her side and bent to inspect the object that had caught the ranger’s attention.

“A tripwire,” she breathed, as they followed the simple trap’s lure to its conclusion. Her eyes narrowed as she found the tie-off point.

“If one of us had blundered into this we would’ve been getting really friendly with this,” she said motioning to the six-meter stone column.

“Ouch,” Kathra said. “Can you disarm it?”

Shainarra scoffed and with the barest flick of the point of her dagger disconnected the wire from its trigger.

“This is the work of an uninspired amateur,” she said, a note of arrogance creeping into her voice. “However,” she added turning to Siloqui, “I would’ve been hard pressed to notice that wire in this gloom. You have quite a pair of eyes on you, ranger.”

“They keep me alive,” shrugged Siloqui moving towards the passage between the two farthest columns.

“Ehm, excuse me? Party? Or group? I think I’ve found something.”

While Shainarra and Siloqui had been taking care of the trap, Lohar had been carefully studying the runes and engravings on a one portion of the wall. He was utterly lost in the pursuit of knowledge and had long forgotten the possible dangers of the darkened halls.

“What is it, cleric?” asked Zal’tat sidling up to the much larger human.

“I’m not sure…these markings tells the story of St. Vornias in great detail, but they stop just short of his death and burial ceremony. This is somewhat puzzling…it’s as if a part of the mural was missing.” He looked farther along at the blank walls that lined the dusty corridor.

“That is odd,” murmured Nala stepping closer and holding up a torch to get a better look at the engravings. She peered at them critically.

“What language is this, exactly, Sapienza?”

“Well, it isn’t a language per se; more like a secret dialect of the priesthood of Gerotil. It’s a mix of standard Dersorran and Dodecanet –the language of the gods-…I can only make out snippets of text.”

“What does this say?” asked Zal’tat curiously pointing at few lines that appeared to have been wreathed in a representation of the roots of the Tree of Life.

Lohar mumbled to himself for a moment. Then, he sang out in a deep rich voice, the words sending shimmers of arcane energy coursing over the murals.

“Of Vornias the second, little remains,
Only bones and dust; his life is gone.
Gerotil has broken of mortality the chains,
From Syrros, beyond dusk and dawn,
The master of Life has sped.
Heed my words, thieves and faithless,
Disturb not the sleep of the saint,
Lest yea find yourselves on paths lightless,
Forever lost in Shareksh’s shadow-taint.”
“Er Vornias-je, nisit uooros,
Ke ilem uz ofth ; Vor geros  nuk shoor.
Gerotil ttiuretsch sharek oolians,
En Syrros, qourosh shoorias n thelias,
Dodecion er gerotis yiornesch.
Kithis Sil , zinthior n rimraas ,
P’Rooket gerothel je’er Vornias,
Nukus orasi-raas te juran shooriaten,
Hurun norz Shareksh-ki-se shoreksh’gurn.”

Silence fell over the assembled companions.

“Riiight,” said Grell rolling his eyes. “Well, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to get back to smashing stuff,” he said, moving to stand by Siloqui.

“But, we could be on the brink of discovering something amazing! Something secret, something ancient!” said Lohar, a mad light shining in his eyes.

“No thanks, cleric. We have a job to do. But if you or anyone else wants to stay a moment and ogle a bunch of old runes, be my guest. You’ll find us in the next room.”  Shainarra pointed towards the doorway and padded softly into the shadows, followed by Thorin, Grell, Bane, Kathra and Siloqui.

Only the cleric, the sorcerer and the warlock remained.

“What do you think it all means?” asked the gnome excitedly turning to look at Lohar.

“If I had to hazard a guess,” Lohar murmured tracing a carving of the Tree, “I’d say that we are on the doorstep of St. Vornias’ final resting place. It was lost countless centuries ago, probably when this portion of the crypt was sealed off. Legends say it contains the knowledge of the ages.”

“And treasure?” asked Zal’tat, his pupils as wide as two gold coins.

“Ehm…maybe…”

“Let’s find us a secret door then!”

They spread out along the corridor, passing their hands on the entire surface of the wall, pushing on random runes and twisting portions of the uneven rock face.

“I think I’ve found something,” said Nala finally. A hand-sized portion of the stone surface seemed smoother than the rest. With a little effort, they were able to slide it into the wall; it disappeared into darkness. A low grinding sound came from behind them and they turned to find a section of the mural sliding away to reveal a small passage.

“I love this crypt,” whispered Zal’tat, causing Nala to smile.

“Let’s have a look shall we?” said Lohar, grabbing the torch from the entranced gnome.

The room they walked into was completely bare, save for the stone table that stood in its centre. As the torch’s light illuminated the small space, they gasped. There was a mummified corpse lying on the table; it was clothed in religious regalia and around it, arcane symbols had been traced in some kind of green tree-sap. Clutched in its arms was a large leather-bound book, bearing a simple “H” embossed on the cover.

“Thelas be praised…this is St. Vornias!” murmured Lohar, waving his left hand before him in the pattern of the goddess’ symbol.

“Are you sure? I mean…he doesn’t have a lot of discerning features if you know what I mean…,” said Zal’tat eying the figure on the table.

“The runes mark him as one of the twelve prophets; there can be no doubt.” Lohar bowed reverentially.

The silence was broken by a gentle creaking of bone on bone.

“What was that?” exclaimed Nala as she stared at the dead saint on the table. A dry, mummified finger flexed experimentally and she took three steps back, magic flaring behind her pupils.

“Oh…I think we may have disturbed his, ahem, eternal sleep,” said Lohar weakly as a thick vapour began to pour from the remains.

“But we didn’t even touch him! I only looked at the book!” exclaimed the gnome trembling slightly as the dark mist towered upwards, taking the shape of a man.

“Kithis Sil, zinthior n rimraas, P’Rooket gerothel je’er Vor!” came the sibilant hiss, as the ghostly apparition stretched out its cold hands towards the companions.

“Lohar! Talk to it! Tell him we don’t mean him any harm! We were just leaving! We’ll even close the door if it wants!” said Zal’tat backing up until he was standing next to Nala.

“I’m sorry…I can only interpret the writing. I’m afraid I have no idea how to speak the ancient dialect.” The cleric grabbed the amulet of Thelas that hung around his neck; it had begun to glow white-hot.

“Let me handle this,” said the dragonborn straightening slightly.

Heedless of the danger, she stepped forward and closing her eyes, reached deep into herself for the source of her power. Dark coils of green and black scales rushed past her vision and two yellow eyes watched her from Beyond.

Then, she felt it, the field of thought and magic that connected every sentient creature of the universe. Tentatively, she reached out telepathically.

“Great St. Vornias, have mercy on us. We mean you no harm. We found your tomb by accident. We will leave this place, if you let us.”

The spectre paused and a dry voice as old as the mountain wheezed through the corridors of Nala’s mind.

“You should not have come. This place is sacred to the god and hallowed by my very presence. You should not have come. I will be merciful; you will leave. However, should you ever cross the will of Gerotil again, there will be consequences, warlock. Now, go.”

The mist dissipated instantaneously and the room was once again empty.

“We should leave,” said Nala quickly.

“Yes, a brilliant idea!” agreed the cleric inching towards the safety of the corridor.

“But-” began the gnome.

“Come on Zal’tat! I don’t know how friendly Vornias is going to be if you keep standing there!”

Something tugged at the back of the gnome’s mind; a sixth sense connected to the arcane forces of the world was silently nudging him, demanding his attention. They had already exited the hall of murals when, silently, he slipped away, his feet taking him back to the tomb and the angry spectre within.-

The story continues in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.9

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