Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chapter 6. May 14, 2005.

After spending one full week in Hammersdale, which Taliesin used to produce healing potions for everyone, we started our journey to Angharradhi. The easiest route there took us through the pass at Glamis, and hence once again we trod our steps along the main road to the city. After a full day and a half on the road we met a group of travellers, who had been attacked by a strange beast, they described as part scorpion and part spider. The creature, which Taliesin later identified as a Cildabrin of the Underdark, had overturned one of their vans, slain two of the hired guards and chased the remaining away, before it had grabbed a young boy and withdrawn into a nearby cavern. The trail still fresh, we took up pursuit immediately and entered the cavern, where we fought the aberration. With its deadly combination of great physical prowess, poison and magical powers, the Cildabrin proved to be almost more than we could handle. By skill and luck, however, we eventually managed to drive it off and save the boy. Tracing the path of our escaped adversary led to a deep shaft, possibly a pathway into the Underdark. Borrowing Vorona’s horse, Luke therefore rode like the wind back to Kundrukar to warn the dwarves, who immediately dispatched an engineering team to close the shaft. As Luke returned with the dwarves, we continued on our journey to Glamis.

In Glamis we decided to linger for a few days, allowing everyone to replenish their provisions as well as to spend some of the well-earned gold, we had secured the last many weeks. Then we continued our travel. The journey from Glamis to Angharradhi was of little incident, save for a solitary hill giant who decided that we were suitable targets for its large boulders. We drove him off, though, and were able to press on for the elven realm with little delay. After ten days on the road (which only felt like three!), we reached the outskirts of Angharradhi. On the edge of the forest, Taliesin and Anarion spent a little time in prayer, before leading on along almost invisible paths. After a further two days, we reached the small village, which is Taliesin’s birthplace.

The next couple of days, we rested in the village and enjoyed the hospitality of the elves, while Taliesin made inquiries about the wizard, whose tomb we had come to examine. Taliesin in turn approached the Keeper of Lore, his old teacher and caretaker of the village library to discuss our findings, in particular the “trionic” book. The Keeper proved to have nothing new to add on these matters save that the wizard in question had spent most of his life far away from the village. As for the burial vault underneath the library, containing the remains of the local wizards of the past, we were readily given permission to enter.

By “chance” a great and unexpected earthquake just 10 days ago had caused the ground to collapse and to block the entrance to the vault. It cost us two days of hard labor to clear it. Entering the burial vault, we discovered the mummified bodies of two humanoids and two jars, indicating that someone had (recently?) created two powerful, incorporeal undead in this place. Wary of this we continued with extreme caution, examining every door in the vault till we came to the one, we were seeking. As we carefully approached, we saw that this stone door was broken down. Inside the chamber there was a sarcophagus and a pedestal identical to the ones we had seen inside the pyramid. On the pedestal, another softly glowing book was resting. Blocking our path were two wraiths, undoubtedly the lost souls of the mummified bodies, we had discovered earlier. By the power of Sehanine Moonbow, Taliesin swiftly put both of them to rest. Examining the chamber more closely, one corner of the sarcophagus proved to be smashed. Looking inside, it was obvious that this tomb had never contained a body! Had the sarcophagus in the pyramid also been empty? The book resting on the pedestal was like the first one written in “trionic”, however, whereas the former was marked with an elven symbol, this book was marked by a glowing Celestial symbol, the “Circle of Corellon”. Vorona suggested that perhaps the differing architecture of the two tombs (the elven vault versus the pyramid) could yield some additional clue, but little came of these considerations. Another question puzzling our minds was if the earthquake had indeed been a decoy, allowing someone to “break” into the vault unseen and create the two undead, why was the book still here? Was it “left” for us to find that we would do someone’s dirty work? It was not to be said at this time.

Since the “Circle of Corellon” referred to a circle of standing stones about three days away, we decided to travel there in search of answers and of the third book. On the way to the stone circle, three trolls attacked us. We slew two of them, while the third escaped into the wood. It was evening on the third day when we arrived to the stone circle and made camp nearby. Next day, while Anarion was keeping a lookout, we started to investigate the site. The “Circle of Corellon” was a perfect circle of five great standing stones, two of which (no. 1 and 3) were decorated with many different symbols in different languages, including those on the books, seemingly without order or meaning. The last three stones were plain, apart from a small hole in the middle, facing the centre of the circle, where three tiny gems were inserted. One gem was clear, one dark and one grey. After a bit of “trial and error”, Vorona discovered that opening the two “trionic” books in front of the engraved stones, a beam of light would be generated from a Circle of Corellon symbol flaring up on the first stone, hitting a Cython symbol on the third stone, which would reflect the light ray on to the fifth stone. Here it would hit the small hole in the stone. Continuing in the same manner, it was obvious that if reflected from all the stones, the pattern would form a pentagram! We were still missing some crucial bit of information, though, because the light ray presently stopped at the fifth stone. Fortunately, Luke’s keen eyes discovered a small pouch with three coloured gems (clear, grey and dark) hidden in the book marked with the Celestial symbol. Just in that moment, we saw Anarion topple forward, taken by surprise by a Demon Assassin. A heartbeat later, another one appeared out of nowhere, attacking Vorona whom it had clearly deemed the most dangerous foe left. Vorona took some heavy hits, but stayed on his feet and well assisted by Naxxar’s eldritch blasts and Luke’s bow, he dealt with the Demon Assassin. Meanwhile, Taliesin had managed to get Anarion to his feet and by sword, axe, bow and blast the second Assassin was also dispatched, before it could succeed in summoning more of its brethren or teleporting away.

No less disturbed over the nature of our attackers than before, Luke carefully mounted the three gems in the three holes as appropriate and as the pentagram formed, a magic portal opened. Readying ourselves to enter the portal, we meticulously started to gather all our items including the two books. Then – suddenly and without warning – it closed on us. All subsequent attempts to reopen it failed, leaving us again with more questions than answers.

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