Know then that on the 4th of the Felmont our heroes continued their Sojourn in those ancient crypts in the Wulfholde hills, and gained much thereby.
In the throne-room of the Orc Jarl, our heroes found much in the way of coin, bauble, jewel, and items of enchantment besides. They encountered there the Jarl’s Wives and 3 young, and debated their fate therein. Many voted they imprison them or set them free, while Rallo was more practical. ‘They are orcs, and deserve death,’ sneered he. Unresolved, they locked the door and explored on.
They found there the priest Alaric, filth-covered and bruised but alive. They gave him water and helped him carry, but before he delivered a warning. Pointing to the throne, he told of a greater evil that commanded the Orcs, a human priest of Dark Gods, working fell designs in the crypts below. Shrieking and raving, he was carried outside, the tortures he had suffered too much for him. Carrying the body of Earendil, and supporting the priest, it was Rallo took the heads of the Orc jarl and his wizard, and placed them on pikes before the entrance, that all would know of their coming.
By evening-break they entered Stallanford, and gained there a warm welcome. Even the halfling innkeeper opened his kitchens and rooms to their clientele free of charge that night. The town celebrated and they went to clean sheets with bellies full and minds untroubled.
Morning brought much excitement. Tiffa, half-sister of Earendil, cousin of Liliath, came investigating news of Liliath’s death, and found her grief multiplied twofold. She took the corpse from the temple wherein it was interred and buried it next to that of Liliath. By that Willow by the Shutturgal, two sisters of the Calarri were returned to the soil.
In tavern, they met there the masked visitor, bearing message from a King. Half-helmed, armored in leather curass, with all the accouterments of his awful trade, the visitor was offered drink by Ioric, which he accepted graciously. Fond of games, he tired our heroes quickly, and Hummingbird exclaimed, ‘all right Big Fellow, tell us your business.’ The hunter’s message was addressed to Rallo the Bastard, and it was thus;
‘The King is impressed. If he were not you would be dead by now. By luck and daring and ingenuity you managed to carry off what was his. But propriety must be maintained. He asks that you pay him 5.000 gp for the inconvenience. You have 10 days.’
And our heroes gasped. For it was well known Karameikos had no king. Rallo, irritated, drank at the corner, whilst Tiffa joined our band, seeking to gain some inkling of her cousin’s final fate. ‘All Elves that join our group die!’ sneered Rallo, earning his nickname well. They all but came to blows but Egil held them apart and they quickly formed their new brotherhood and set out to conclude their business.
The inn was in the morning surrounded by all manner of vultures and passing merchants. News of their deeds had begun to spread, and news of their newfound wealth no less. Straining under the weight, they examined their spoils, and debated much of what they should spend;
Of silver, electrum, gold, platinum, copper, they carried bulging sacks. They carried silver belt buckles and silver dwarven bracelets and gold bracelets inlaid with ivory and earrings inlaid with jade, rings set with precious stones, and a set of platinum and silver goblets and strange spellbooks and elixers and caskets bulging with jewels and trinkets.
It was Hummingbird, defiant, and starting to cough and sweat from some unknown malady, who took some 600 coinsworth of treasure in silver, platinum, electrum and gold, and sent it with travelling caravans to contacts in Specularum, certain that it would make its way to a mysterious cloister, that few had heard of or even believed existed. Disdaining to look for a healer or submit to womanly examination, he instead spent 3 of his gold on a paste reputed to cure all ailments from one of the dubious hucksters gathered about the inn.
Others were generous also. To Alonzo the Sage, a nomadic loremaster of dubious reputation, they paid exorbitant sums for his sage pronunciations on their items arcane. But first Hummingbird, saying that he was for sure a charlatan, demanded he prove his sagacity by guessing the number of fingers he concealed. The sage said that he could not know, thereby proving he had knowledge of the exact boundaries of the fields of knowledge of a sage, and that he had thus bested Hummingbird in a battle of wits. Unconvinced, our band eventually forked over hundreds of gold pieces, if he was willing to give a discount on his third proclamation.
They found there the wavy-bladed knife of bronze, with handle queerly shaped as if not for human hand, was one of many found in tombs throughout Karameikos, and that tales of these weapons had been told in the times of the first tribes, when they battled with spears of stone and bone. And long did they wait as the Sage Alonzo peered into the incense-filled depths of his sweat-ridden tipi, and gained many an insight therein. An elixer of healing, won at great cost, and a ring of protection, forged by an Alphatian Wizard Prince to protect some paramour, lost when the wizard’s ring did not protect her from the (natural) charms of his rival. Despairing, he turned them and himself and all his court to precious glass, and the ring was taken from the rubble.
Of a fourth, they demanded that since his proclamation had been all but a waste for the elixer, he owed them half price on the fourth one. ‘What am I, some common pedler of pots and pans that may be haggled down? This is against my honor as a sage. Three-quarters and not a gold piece less!’ He took their other ring and found it was only a nobleman’s jewel, and they were incensed and sulking as they left him.
Of the enchanted sword, finely wrought, with Thyatian odes etched into its broad blade and falcon carved into its pommel, they thought its power beyond question, and armed themselves with it forthwith. And still they eschewed plate, for they sought, above all, to die rich.
Besieging, they asked Alaric to come with, but he told them that his days of adventuring were long over, and he had experienced horrors in that darkness below the soil that a man could not bear, and that he was willing to offer healing, and all the aid of his advice. The priest told that the other sought the mysteries of his worship of Halav, that he might better defile it. All manner of atrocities were perpetuated in the dark, and great evil had been awakened there.
They took from him flasks of holy water, and bought from the market silver tipped arrows and oil and silver dagger, and made their way thus armed to the ruins, to settle affairs with the Black Lord of that domain.
They sought also reward of the village Hetman, and he gave them all a weeks worth of food, and re-named the inn in their honor, and charged them little for any burials that had taken place, and any burials that would take place. They asked him to detain and question the Bounty Hunter, and growing pale he acceded, declaiming that the heroes of Stallanford would be allowed to go about their business unmolested.
Of the Orc ladies they freed them and questioned them and debated till Hummingbird adressed them, slapping them for their insolence. He grew bored of their weeping and wailing, and sent them scurrying into the night, one of them falling prey to the trap in the corridor. Shing merely shrugged, for this was Shing, unmoved, merciless, inscrutable. They mourned them little but gave them mercy, for to slay things that were no direct threat was alien to Balan’s Lame Ones.
Behind the Throne there was the passage the priest had told them of, and they went down the long stairway, taking all precaution, emerging in a vast and dim cavern, the very air alive with the fetid miasma of evil. As Rallo marched forward to listen to the eastern corridor, from the ground burst horrid Red Worms, beasts of nature twisted by the unleashed corruption, and gnawed and savaged him before any could respond. By a hairsbreath the poison of their fangs would have claimed him.
He scurried back and begged for life-giving Elixer, but Shing heeded him not and flung pointed dagger as Tiffa heralded in her career as Elf in Balan’s Lame Ones, by missing her arrowshot. Mad hummingbird charged in and Ioric and Egil followed. A vicious bite all but claimed hummingbird had he not shrugged off the poison, and so our heroes lived and the beasts were dispatched. They bound their wounds and discovered a small tunnel through which the beasts had come, which they probed with rocks and then poured burning lamp oil into, and the third of the monsters burned with none the wiser.
Hearing some unsettling skittering noises in the northern passage, they instead ventured south into a large cavern, reasoning that skittering things were unlikely to have much in the way of treasure. There too the fox-like hearing of Rallo detected skittering and skulking footsteps, and they debated long for a suitable plan of attack. So long did they crouch and huddle the beast came ululating out of the tunnel, a half-human carrion eater, gnarled claws and broken fangs and eyes agleam with madness and hate. Arrows and holy water and enchanted sword and silver dagger met the un-thing’s corpse flesh, and it was dispatched soon. ‘Do I have to do everything myself?,’ quoth Hummingbird, removing enchanted steel, which he had finally admitted was superior to his fists,
They found on this Ghoul a necklace of gold, set with precious gems. Ioric cautioned that perhaps it had caused the hideous transformation, but Rallo only sneered and put it on, defiant to the last.
They searched all the great boulder-filled cavern where it had emerged, and soon discovered behind some great boulder where the beast had lurked, a passage to the south. Ioric in the front, they ventured down, feeling it get colder and more foul as they sped on. Spying dim shapes by a door to the south, they sent Tiffa the elf for reconnaissance, only to find horrors beyond counting.
The headless corpses of Fenrig and Balan, never recovered, still covered in rotting finery, marched upon Tiffa the elf. Her mail deflected their killing blows, and the rest of Balan’s Lame Ones followed. It was Ioric the Hunter who dispatched Fenrig with accurate blows, and by Rallo’s blade Balan at last knew final rest. In an odd cosmic sense, things had come full circle.
Their heartbeats slowing down, they were about to bind their wounds and take their breaths before chanting was heard from the door in the south. Like the prayers of the cleric in town, but hideously reversed, atonal, a flood of meaningless, sickening, dissonant consonants addressed to nebulous outer horrors. It seems they had found the lair of the Dark priest.
Will they emerge victorious? Or perish ignominious in the darkness? Let us see.
The Book of the Dead
Ilyanka Pjottrsdöttr (Clr 1) – Beheaded by Giant Chameleon
Liliath the Elf-maiden (Elf 1) – Skull-split by the horrid Bugbear
Cold-Souled Fenrig (Thf 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
Balan the Lame (Dwr 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
Earendil (Elf 1) – Struck down by vile Orc Sorcery
1 Orc Chieftain
1 Orc Sorcerer
5 Orc Hetmen
2 Giant Ferrets
1 Hunting Spider
1 Giant Chameleon
3 Red Worms
Fenrig & Balan Zombies