Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chapter 13. Sep 3, 2005

We quickly searched both floors of the building, but Elÿas was nowhere to be found. Searching the office more thoroughly, however, Luke discovered a diary and a letter belonging to some Dôrgan, Reaper of the Flesh, which proved to answer many of the riddles, we had been facing of late. It also posed many new ones. But above all, these findings confirmed that everything that had happened since Dire’s Cove was but parts in a grand scheme, orchestrated by these ruthless devotees of the Death God. It was now obvious that it was the search for the secrets guarded by Saint Drayan, which had brought Cathain’s mercenaries to attack the small village in the mountains, and that it was this same cause, which had triggered the attack on Hammersdale and the abduction of Elÿas. Which had let our adversaries to the mithril amulet that was the key to the one sacred relic, their dark Master of Úndeath really feared: the Sword of Five Virtues? According to one of the last entries in the diary, dated five days ago to the present day of Harvesttide 13 YP 1062, a search party had already been dispatched to secure the sword. An expedition led by the elven monk Cathain and a female elven spellcaster of some sort called Varena. And there was more; the diary clearly indicated that the Reapers had a source, who had informed them of our every move.

Knowing well that each moment stayed would bring our enemies closer to their dark goal, it was beyond question that the more immediate task ahead still was to rescue Elÿas. To do so we needed information. Fortunately there was one, who might provide it: the lowly young monk that Duncan had struck down was merely unconscious. At first, the monk was reluctant to talk and even Vorona’s threats did not seem to have any effect, since the monk was obviously used to a great deal of suffering. There was another, subtler way, though, and thus under the influence of Taliesin’s charm spell the monk finally revealed what he knew. Although he had no knowledge of Elÿas’ fate, it was not difficult to guess where they had taken him: to the Temple of Death right next to the building, we were in. Leaving the charmed monk to explain the two dead guards to his boss, we swiftly covered the distance across the courtyard to enter the temple, praying that it was unnoticed. Just as we approached the main entrance, it was like a shadowy being watched us for a moment, then it phased through the wall, and we understood all too well that we would be expected.

The building itself had once been a temple devoted to the Sun God of Old, he who is now called Asteriot, In its present state, it was an obscene mockery of its former pride, having long been defiled by the followers of the Arch Enemy. The place literally reeked with death and Taliesin explained that it had been unhallowed. Great was our surprise therefore and even greater our fortune, when we discovered a secret door on the lower level, leading into an untouched part of the complex. Here, in hallowed halls, we found a tunnel, which later proved to be a safe exit out of the fortress, and another that led deeper into the dungeons. At the end of the second tunnel there was another secret door, bringing us back into the rooms controlled by the Reapers. Proceeding with extreme caution we passed through the connecting room to enter a great round hall, which was literally a giant summoning pentagram, with five doors equally spaced around the outer wall. Everyone who entered to stand in the pentagram could hear the calling of undead spirits, beckoning them to pass over into the Netherworld. Furthermore, the hall had a guardian, a terrible and powerful undead creature who attacked us on sight. Together, we vanquished this foe only to discover that a much more dangerous one invisibly slipped into the room through one of the doors. It was the necromancer Jorack, who had patiently observed us, waiting for the right moment to unleash his dreaded powers. Cloaked by his invisibility, Jorack cast a powerful mass blindness spell, and darkness consumed us all. Blind as bats, we promptly retreated in desperate hope of finding safety within the hallowed grounds, however, for Naxxar it was not fast enough. He fell to the necromancer’s spells later to rise as an undead creature. As for Vorona, another terrible spell cost him his hand, turning it into a weapon against us in itself. And thus we were short of one man and one right hand as Anarion and Duncan finally managed to close the secret door behind us.

It was not until many hours later and through the most powerful spells Taliesin possessed that everyone regained their sight. The question was what to do now? Seemingly without breaking his sweat, the invisible spell caster had decimated our ranks, and yet we could not leave Naxxar to his undecided fate. This time invisible, the stone door was therefore once more removed and carefully we entered the pentagram room to find that its undead guardian had been replaced. It was Naxxar and he was undead! Somehow the warlock could easily see through Taliesin’s spells and hence the confrontation was unavoidable. Still, it was mere moments that Naxxar managed to slow our progress, before we could lock our main foe in mortal combat. Twice Jorack unleashed his blindness spell, however, this time by the will of the gods only Taliesin succumb to its effect and then only after having covered our invisible enemy by shining particles, thus providing an ample target for our blades and arrows. Jorack in turn died all too quickly. Afterwards, directed by Luke, the area was searched. While securing an entrance to a room, the rogue accidentally set off a magic trap, a glyph inscribed next to a door. It proved to be fatal. Luke was instantly slain, his body reduced to a lifeless husk by purple rays. Meanwhile, Elÿas was still not to be found.

Needless to say the situation was desperate. With Luke and Naxxar dead and Taliesin blinded, only fierce courage or maybe dumb luck led us on into the next, unexplored rooms of the dungeon. By chance these rooms were the torture chamber and the prison cells, and after destroying their mummy guardian we finally found Elÿas – he was alive! We also freed the other prisoner mentioned in the diary: the scholar called Atreion. Atreion proved to be learned in history and cartography and had like Elÿas been caught and tortured, four months ago in Taleron. Though he was unacquainted with the secrets of Saint Drayan, Atreion knew very well the location of Dava-Notar, and hence we now also knew. Unfortunately, so did the Reapers, since both Atreion and Elÿas had been broken by the physical torture and spells…

Having retrieved the prisoners we withdrew one final time to the untouched part of the dungeon to set course out of the complex. After a few kilometers of hiking through the first tunnel it was discovered – as we had hoped – to lead to freedom. Still, we were lacking the one thing, which could give us even an ounce of hope that we could beat Cathain’s party to the sword: the mithril amulet. Refusing to accept this, Taliesin volunteered to go back and steal it. And … somehow … he succeeded. Using his spells he managed single-handedly to steal the amulet from around the very neck of Dôrgan, while the master monk was sleeping. And get away with it.

Transporting the dead bodies of Luke and Naxxar, it took five days even in animal form to return to Glamis. Upon returning to the city, we immediately contacted Arakk, who organized the raising of the deceased within hours. Although they had permanently lost some of their life force, the return of life to their eyes was a welcome and much needed sight in these dark hours. The next morning Taliesin proceeded to investigate the amulet, which when opened contained a glass tube with a small black ball in the center. Instructed by Atreion, the half-elf cast a fire spell onto the ball and the light shining through the glass formed a map of Dava-Notar before our unbelieving eyes. For ease of traveling Atreion offered to make a copy of the map on parchment, this was agreed upon.

The secret of the mithril amulet

The following days, Atreion working on the map, we rested while investigating how to get to Dava-Notar. Duncan and Anarion visited the city library. According to Arakk, most of the Wayfarers had abandoned Glamis during the last year and those that were left were too inexperienced to get us the isle. Alternatively, one could charter a ship in King’s Port, though this would take weeks at best. Arguably, the best option would therefore be to find a Mana Circle, as indicated in Dôrgan’s diary. The Mana Circles are the result of an old alliance between the druids of Erlik and the crystal elves. They are magic portals scattered throughout Avern connecting regions and continents, yes even other planes, as we had already experienced. To control a Circle, however, one needs special training. And thus it was decided that we should at once travel to the Crystal Forest, to seek the aid of the elves.


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