10. The Old Keep Chapel – 29th May 2015
The Temple of Hidden Light
After resting through the night, the group headed back to the Temple of Hidden Light to be reunited with their stalwart companion, Ulrik. They found him in good spirits, still battle-scarred but alive and very glad to be so.
While the rest of the companions reaffirmed their bonds with their dwarven companion, Titan took the opportunity to go and speak to the Priestess of the Temple of light about the rather grizzly item he had been carrying with him since before they had started their grand task of clearing out the slavers from the Horned Hold.
Although the Priestess was initially receptive to the idea of purifying an evil artifact from the world, it soon became clear that this was not going to continue. She looked upon the item, which was the skin from the necromancer face that had been torn off during battle, a certain level of hesitation came to her, and then she suddenly seemed to recognize who it was. It seemed that the necromancer of whose face Titan now held, had been a valued member of the Temple, and indeed of the Seven-Pillared Hall. Horrified, not only at his demise, but also being talked to by his murderer, she refused to have anything more to do with him.
When it seemed that Titan was going to be carrying around the darkness-imbued face of the necromancer for some time, a new figure stepped into the room. A burly dwarf who bore the sign of Kord upon his armour.
He introduced himself as Ammeric, a priest of Kord. It seemed that he had sensed that Titan was also a follower of the same God, and was willing to help him with the task of making the detestable item safe once more. But for a price.
The price was not, as one of the Temple of Hidden Light might have done, of gold, but of a task to hunt down a dragon that was lurking in the depths of the Labyrinth as a show of strength and courage, to prove his worth to the God, and bring back the heart as proof. Titan seemed not to question this at all, and agreed readily. Across the room, I could see Corvar’s gaze upon the pair, noticing the extremely pleased look in the Priest, and one that was not necessarily that of one religious pride. Was something more going on there? If Titan succeeded in his task to slay the dragon, perhaps only then would we find out.
So the group headed out with Ulrik in tow. Perhaps feeling a keener sense of his mortality, and the need for some extra backup, he decided that a trip to the taproom might yield some success if there were some mercenaries there.
Upon entering, it became clear that this was not the cleanest nor the most pleasant of taverns. The floor was dirty, and most things seemed to have a level of grime that was almost fitting with the type of clientèle that were seen frequenting it. They were a long way from the well-kept tavern of Winterhaven, that was for certain.
It came as something of a shock for them when they saw that many of the customers, other than goblins and orcs, were in fact Duregar, who likewise did not appear, and with good reason, to be pleased to see them. However despite half-rising at the sight of them, the group seemed unwilling to take that further step to combat right now. The reason for this may well have been the massive ogre, of whom Corvar had so recently had dealings with in the Customhouse; Brug, the Mages of Saruun’s enforcer, who was arm-wrestling across the other side of the room.
Corvar went to the bar and bought himself a drink before seeming to disappear into the shadows along one wall, something he seemed to be getting more adept at doing. Ulrik on the other hand had spotted some rather depressed looking dwarves and went over to sit with them, offering to buy them all a drink, in the hopes of striking up a more friendly drinking experience. This seemed to cheer the dwarves at least a little, pleased it seemed to be talking to one of their own race.
It seemed that the dwarves were hired as miners by the Deep Gem Company there in the Seven-Pillared Hall, but they hated it, not only because it was back-breaking work, but also because they were paid barely enough to survive. As the conversation started to flow between them better now they had a willing ear, and some foul-smelling beverage, they appeared far more open to talk with Ulrik, who, by his very nature, was open and friendly.
Worryingly, across the room, the Duregar all got up and left the tavern, not liking sharing it with our group perhaps. Corvar, worried they were leaving to make some manner of trap for them, gestured to the otherwise un-engaged Ayanna to go and check on them while he remained watching the room. However, just as she was going to do so, and as if out of nowhere, a massive hand came down towards her shoulder, something that likely might have crippled her had it made contact on such a small personage. Her swift reflexes stood her in good stead however, and the hand met only empty air, however the massive form of Brug still lingered, looking none-too-pleased at having not made his target.
He told her, and in a loud enough voice that it carried to the rest of the group, that there would be no fighting the Duregar in the Seven-Pillared Hall. Through spittle-coated words, they came to understand that the Hall was seen as a sort of neutral ground, with the Mages of Saruun seeing that it remained so, primarily with Brug doing the enforcing. “I know you been going after those stiffle bearded freaks. Bold, stranger. Bold. But not in the Seven-Pillared Hall.”
His point having been made, he goes back to his arm-wrestling across the room, and soon the general noise in the taproom returns to normal.
Meanwhile across the room, Ulrik had been in deep conversation with the dwarves there, who had taken note of the conversation, and the fact that Ulrik and the group he was with were fighting the Duregar. It seemed like the dwarves, much like Ulrik himself, had no love for the Duregar and indeed, seemed almost as vehemently against them as Ulrik was. Seeing an opportunity, Ulrik told them how the Duregar had indeed killed him, and showed off the still-healing scars he bore. This had enough of an impact on them that he then asked them if they would be interested in being hired by him as mercenaries to help take down the Duregar in the Horned Hold instead of struggling for the pittance that the Deep Gem Company were offering them.
After some negotiations, money was changed hands, and the dwarves, filled with visibly renewed purpose, finished off their drinks and headed out to prepare for the battle to come. They would work with Ulrik’s group, as they called it, by attacking the front entrance, while Ulrik’s came through the rear in a sort of pincer movement that they hoped would strike the enemy down quickly.
So it was that both the dwarves, and our group left the tavern, with Corvar adeptly dodging a random glob of spit on the way out, and the sound of a breaking bone and relevant cries from both contestant and watchers as Brug succeeded in his arm-wrestling bout. A well-timed win for Brug, and perhaps more of a statement for our group than it was an accident.
Gendar’s Curios & Relics
Moving outside of the taproom, the thoughts of the group became focused on the inevitable battle to come. Ulrik, remembering the strange potion in their bag that they had not yet identified, took it out and contemplated if for some time, before coming to the conclusion that it was Gravespawn Potion, something that helped fight against poison and the damage of death magic.
Searching through their various gathered loot, they found some healing potions, which they split amongst themselves for emergency situations. Satisfied with this, they headed to Gendar’s Curios and Relics.
Entering the place, Gendar was in as fine a state as ever, this time seeming to hide behind the door to surprise his customers, however both Corvar and Ulrik noticed him with an ease that he hadn’t seemed to expect. Still, the drow was friendly, and as ever, more than pleased to attempt to sell them goods from his store. Ulrik picked up a stronger healing potion, and Corvar related the information about his acquiring the contract for trade within the Seven- Pillared Hall.
Horned Hold Keep
All business and preparations taken care of, they gather to start to head out to the Horned Hold once more. However just as they are about to leave, Titan, who had been absent during the fight in which Ulrik had lost his life, took Ulrik aside a moment, telling him “I am sorry I was not there for you. I swear on my life to protect you.” The sentiment seemed heartfelt and genuine, and was, perhaps, a surprise coming from the creature they knew so little about.
And so the group headed off to the Horned Hold, a trip that was becoming fairly frequent as to be an easy route to follow, or one might think. Ulrik, perhaps still addled from his recent demise, got them lost.
It took a few hours to re-find the place, and much to their surprise, the Keep seemed deserted. Soon though, as they moved cautiously through the corridor in which they had encountered the arbalesters, they heard faint screams that they had heard during the fight the previous day.
Since their original intent of attacking the Horned Hold had been to rescue the slaves that had been taken, it was decided to go to the east where the screams were originating.
Heading through some doors and up the stairs, they soon came to a corridor in which Corvar noted some runes were faintly inscribed upon the floor. It was far too far to attempt to jump, and the runes covered the entire corridor from side to side, so there was no way around. Clearly, to get to their target, they would have to find some way across, and walking over what appeared to be a floor of spelled traps, was not really seemed to be a good option.
The group stood and contemplated this, for they could see small pieces of bone fragments in amongst the rubble and general dust around the place that hinted to previously unsuccessful trespassers.
It was Ulrik that came to the decision to attempt to make contact with the spirit world and try to talk to the spirits of those that had fallen at this place. The first attempt brought forth the spirit of a dead Minotaur whose glare seemed to make Ulrik flinch slightly, as if it had harmed him. Needless to say, Ulrik didn’t pursue the matter with this spirit any longer and dispelled it, before taking a moment and trying again.
This time it was the spirit of a Duregar that could be seen, or rather, seen by Ulrik. I myself, being of the spirit realm, could take note of its presence, but the rest of the group seemed oblivious. It seemed to be trapped in a never-ending sort of fire and the spirit appeared in agony to this. Despite the fact that the Duregar are the group’s enemy, I could not help but feel a certain amount of pity for this spirit, for my own afterlife has indeed been rather idyllic by comparison.
Ulrik, seeing he would get no communication from the Duregar when it was in such a state, attempted to get its attention, pointing out that even if he was on fire, which he couldn’t be since he was dead, the Duregar are pretty resistant to fire. This seemed to allow some manner of peace to come over the spirit, and the flames died back until the perceived agony was reduced enough that he could understand and communicate. It seemed to matter not to the spirit that this was a Dwarf he was talking to, and he warned Ulrik not to go on past to the door. His speech was somewhat incoherent still, but it seemed like he had been told that it was the third line to use, but that had been a lie. It was the second. Again, he warned Ulrik not to continue, before the shaman allowed the spirit to rest once more, hopefully in a better state than he had been upon summoning.
Looking at the floor, the group contemplated which line the Duregar had been talking about. It was Corvar who put forth the question as to how the Duregar language was read, as this might change how the runes were read and might explain the spirit’s untimely death. This insight proved invaluable, because after some discussion, they did indeed come to remember that the Duregar read from right to left, unlike the common language.
So it was decided that Ulrik should send over Landshark to check whether this route was indeed the correct one. The spirit companion made its way over without trouble, but then it occurred to them, as solid as Landshark could appear at times, he was indeed merely a spirit and would cast no weight upon any of the traps. Ulrik huffed a bit, and started to make his way over the second column of runes from the right, and after it was seen that he was unharmed, the rest of them followed.
Faced with a barricaded door between them and their quarry, the screams from beyond loud in their ears, Titan smashed the barricades aside with the help of the group and they charged inside, hoping to take their foes before any more damage to the slaves could happen.
But the sight that met them was not of slaves being tortured, but a room with a large statue of the Minotaur god Baphomet, and six wights who had been making the screams to lure in prey.
to be continued [the rest of the notes are currently missing, I will update this when I find them]
Continue to Chapter 11