Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chronicles of the Blackmoor, Part II

These pages continue the Chronicles of the Blackmoor, portraying the adventures of Laurian, Anazi, Rââm, Ludo and Rowan.

Chapter 6. Voices of Stone

The following morning Rââm and Rowan started to make early preparations for their return to the Skullhill, while Ludo who had eagerly pointed out the prospects of “imaginable wealth” was nowhere to be found. According to the innkeeper the gnome had left the party late into the night in the company of several young men. Perhaps the gnome had ultimately decided that the dangers lurking in the dark was not worth it? Or perhaps he had merely succeeded in his efforts to contact Hox Yesterday? Regardless, the remaining two decided that their departure could no longer be postponed, still clinging to desperate hopes that a cure for Anazi’s current condition could to be found in the ancient caverns below. In any case the endeavor of selling the two blood stones and the elaborate wooded box containing four vials of King’s bane poison had to stay for now. The remaining gold had already been split evenly between Lau, Ludo, Rââm and Rowan, each receiving 109 gold pieces.

After restocking their supplies the two travelers and newfound companion Fang paid a last visit at the temple to bid father Cadwell and sister Tia farewell. The druid brought with him a special request to the priestess, who had proven to be the only accomplished bow maker in Longdale. Along with her best wishes sister Tia presented him with a short bow of her own making and a quiver of arrows, five of which were silver-tipped. Filled by sheer admiration of her craft and of her devotion to the Goddess, Rowan thanked her deeply, before he and Rââm set out for the wild. The two traveled most of the day through heavy rain and it was not until they were quite close to Skullhill that the showers ended. It was like some hidden source of heat buried deeply in the rock simply dispelled the rain!

The bronzed gates to the Skullhill were still blocked like they had left them, and thus soon Rââm and Rowan rested uneasily inside while trying to regain their strength from the day’s ordeals. As morning finally broke (at least as much as they could perceive) they continued their explorations, starting with the main corridor.

While investigating a wooden door suddenly both of them were stopped dead in their tracks. Terrible screams of pain and of mercy could be heard from inside. The moment the door was opened, however, the screaming ceased. The room itself contained several wooden beds but most remarkable was a skeleton hanging on the back wall, its limbs nailed to the stone. One could easily imagine the horrible pains the man would have suffered in life, and so in respect for the deceased Rââm and Rowan carefully released the crumbling skeleton from its bonds. Around its neck the skeleton carried an elliptical medallion showing the symbol of a crown.

Resuming their search the druid and the half-giant continued into the “throne room”, where they dwelled long at the frescos, which spanned the entire room. Standing in the middle was like standing in a great city of magnificent buildings, towers, bridges, squares, monuments and above all the people who lived there: men, elves and dwarves. Apart from the elaborate wooden chair in the far end of the room and a great free standing hourglass in the center, this large room was otherwise empty. Around 1.5 meter tall and filled with black sand the hourglass was carved of ivory and covered with the motifs of countless sad-looking faces. Turning it over, it seemed like the hourglass counted hours rather than minutes.

In the rightmost end of the throne room Rââm and Rowan found another corridor, leading to what had once been a training hall for the soldiers of the keep. A pair of “animated armors” rested here and rose to challenge the intruders but both quickly succumbed to Rââm’s powerful blows. While following another corridor Rââm suddenly paused, claiming that he heard the well-known sounds of a forge at work. Following the sounds the duo soon entered a forge though as they did the sounds instantly ceased like before, and the furnaces were found to be long cold. A blacksmith’s apron and a splendid set of tools which seemed completely unaffected by age were quickly packed into their backpacks, before Rââm and Rowan continued.

Behind the forge a short corridor led onwards to a thick oaken door reinforced by heavy steel bands and blocked by two heavy duty locks. As Rowan most carefully tried to investigate, the druid accidentally sprung an axe trap and took a heavy hit to his shoulder, before he could even try to pick the locks. Remarkably Rowan somehow managed to foil both locks, perhaps by the grace of the Oaken Father or maybe just an instance of dumb luck! The door hid the keep’s armory and though most of the inventory was now rendered useless by age, four items remained in almost pristine condition: a studded leather armor with bronze studs, a scimitar, a broad dagger and a mace, its head folded into the shape of twin overlapping sun discs.