Heroes of Khemer
Humbled, we return to town. Lannister is angry with me in that we are ‘retreating’ and ‘running away at the cusp of victory’. The man has great strength and conviction, of that I am sure, but I fear his arrogance will be his undoing. His overconfidence nearly cost him his life, and yet the fool thinks it is but a scratch. After tending to his wounds, he is staggering from so much blood loss that he sounds like he is in a drunken stupor. These pathetic goblins that should quake at his presence nearly killed them, and that revelation does not even enter his mind. He has no respect for a his foe, and that could, and almost has, prove to be a fatal mistake.
Once at the House of Light, Sister Demi agrees to care for our wounded companion, but I worry there is no poultice that will heal his wounded pride. We leave Sorfildor to have his last rites prepared and return to the inn, while Nergui avoids the confines of the town, opting to stay out and ride as much as possible. It may well be several weeks before Lannister has recovered, so we make arrangements to stay for the duration. Over the next few days Lady Hurcrele has contacted me for updates on her children. She reluctantly accepts that we had returned, but is saddened that we have nothing for her. I feel her pain, and try to reassure her that we will be heading back in, but she just nods and leaves, obviously disappointed. I suspect that she sees this as yet another failure to her hopes that someone will put her concerns to rest.
A note arrives from Lannister, seeking an audience. Uncertain to what it may be about, I meet with him. He surprises me by seemingly trying to make peace at our differences of opinion by asking how I came upon my path of faith, that eventually led me here. As i reflect on his question, it then turns colder as he seems to want to call out my faith, calling into question how I know what I feel. I cannot explain to one who does not feel the calling, that is for the clergy to sway the masses. I have my faith and that is what drives me, that is what put me here, that is what will guide me tomorrow. I need not, and will not, justify my belief to him, and now an uncomfortable rift now seems to have opened around us.
Azgar has met with a man, Hedrid Felb, who was the master to our fallen comrade, Sorfildor. He seeks the same goals as his apprentice did, so in short time, we come to terms and he agrees to join up when we head back in. I am happy for my journeys, but I am become discouraged at the politic that exists even between our group. At the surface, we all seem to share a similar goal, albeit for different reasons, but the constant bickering and questioning is becoming tedious. I have my goal, I want to help the Lady Hucrele get answers for her missing children. I care not for who gets what treasures discovered, or who is better suited to take the late hours of the guard shift, but I find even myself getting wrapped up in the petty squabbles. Maybe this group is not for me, for it seems that my path becomes muddled trying to give everyone the right answers.
Once Lannister is recovered sufficiently, we head back into the ravine, and quickly get back to where we were at last. We opt to check a path of the citadel that we passed by earlier, rather than return to the choke point we struggled with. Perhaps there is another way around? Throughout our searching of the areas we pass through, we have come across a signet ring, upon a body of a fallen man. A large rat appears to has ended his life, for the creature and her ilk are upon us once we entered the room. With a universal goal in mind, we work together and quickly slay the beasts. Based on descriptions provided by Lady Hucrele, we suspect that this may be Karakas, one who was believed to entered in here with the Hucrele children. Our first confirmation that we may be on the correct path seems for the first time, to somewhat unite us. Maybe we can work together here.
We reach a dead end, and seems we must again return to the narrow hallway. It looks like that are still well defended behind the walls and forcing us into a familiar channel to get at them. We press on, and appear to be turning the tide when Hedrid takes a bolt in the chest. I’m advancing with Azgar and Lannister on the goblin’s fortifications, when Lannister opts to change our tactic and demand I pull back to defend the wounded Hedrid. While a noble gesture on the surface, it seems reasonable to assume that we’d be opening ourselves up to a barrage of attacks, just like last time. Hedrid is hurt, but he is still up, and looking a lot better off than Lannister was when we last faced these vile creatures. Besides, felling these goblins is the only sure way to ensure the safety of my allies. We press on and, once over the wall, make short work of the goblins.
Once we have secured their fortification, Lannister, again, turns on me, condemning my decision to continue to press our advantage. Of course, it is no surprise that he feels that he’d of easily been able to clear the fortification by himself. By Tyr’s eternal patience, this man’s arrogance knows no bounds. After several minutes, we find ourselves at an impasse of opinion, and Azgar eventually tires of it and calls out or bickering, mercifully ending the confrontation. It is evident that something needs to change between Lannister and I, and soon, for I feel the friction between us building – and I am growing tired of his attitude towards me.
A room beyond is secured with a pitfall before the door, making entrance quite difficult. Evidently difficult is not a term used by dwarves, as Azgar takes to use himself as a battering ram, leaping over the pit and at the door. Another unused Dwarven term must be failure, because when the door does not open, sending Azgar spiraling into the pit, he simply climbs out and jumps into the door again. Strangely, he seems to be enjoying this physical challenge, and perhaps I have underestimated his ability, for the door quickly relents and Azgar tumbles into the room beyond.
Ice. Not expected here. The room beyond seems almost completely encased in ice, and it takes only a moment before we realize why. A horse-sized white dragon has made his home here and tries to make a meal out of Azgar. We move in and assist our fearless ally, and manage to slay the beast quickly. For once, everybody seemed to work together to defeat a common foe. If only this could last…
We stand victorious over the drake, and quickly take stock of the room. There is not much, aside from some coin and smashed furniture. We then press on to the southern door, and into a smokey hallway. Although the smoke renders vision all but nearly useless, it appears to be void of interest, so we press on, checking the other doors that enter the eerie hallway. One room contains barrels of foul liquids and crates of rotten meats. Obviously the pantry of these abominations who dwell down here in the shadows. I’d rather not think about what the meats really are, for I see nary a cow, pig or sheep, but Nergui seems indifferent to it’s origin and resupplies his food rations. A backpack and pair of short blades appear to have been placed here recently, perhaps another victim, caught down in this pit?
We press on and pass through yet another door. There are several smaller fiends, kobolds, I believe, chained together in the midst of the room. Beyond them, against the far wall are two men, one smaller, a gnome, and a young man, perhaps even a boy, for he looks not even old enough to shave, chained up. It takes no time to tell that the gnome has suffered greatly at the hands of his captors, while the boy seems to be little worse for wear. As I pass by the kobolds, they chatter and fearfully move as far away from me as their chain allows. Nergui smashes the chains that bind them, and they quickly scatter from the room. The boy is conscious and alert, and tells us that his name is Ian Shadow-wolf, and that he was indeed captured recently by the goblins. He offers his blade and skills to aid in our quest once we free him.
Sadly, the gnome, called Erky Timbers, is beyond saving. With his what little life remains, he tells us that while he had been their prisoner, he had encountered more human captives of the goblins. Namely the Hucrele children and their companion, Sir Bradford. Sir Bradford had been slain by a goblin called Durnn, while the children were brought to Belak, a druid who tends something called the Gulthias Tree in the Twilight Grove, which is somewhere below us yet. This grove appears to be the source of the rumors of the magical fruit that had first drawn Sorfildor and Hedrid to the area. Before he passes from this life, he requests we notify his family. Surprisingly, Ian quickly agrees, promising to do so, once he is out of the citadel. These goblins actions burn my very soul, the act without regard and defile or destroy all they come in contact with. They will not be allowed to act without consequence, their day will come – by my hand or another, they will be judged.
We move on and soon find ourselves at a door. Beyond it, we could hear many voices – goblins, from the sounds, it seems. Our anger was still strong, and we entered with fire in our eyes. Dozens of goblins filled the room, many seem to be sows and their children who retreat through a far doorway upon our loud arrival. Their curs then set upon us and we quickly found ourselves facing what seems to be a small army. From a room we had not explored came a large goblinoid who charges right into the fray. Durnn, who is proudly carrying the tabard bearing the mark of Tyr upon his waistband, bolsters the goblins attacks, and a well-placed club brings me to the ground. Moments later I recover, thanks to Hedrid, but our line has now faltered, and broken up into smaller battles. With the numbers now working to their advantage, the fell strike down Lanniser. Seeing one us fall, we fight harder, and began to turn the tide. Durnn, taunts us by trying to call me out for ‘another knight to join his friend.’ What Durnn receives was the fury of a Kindred, and Tyr’s will favores his chosen, as Durnn was sent to Hades along with the rest of his tribe. Azgar secures the room, noting that the escaping goblins had fled down tunnels likely leading to the Underdark. I take stock of what this battle had cost us. Lannister will not again, see the light of day. Whatever differing opinions we may of had, I am saddened to see another ally had succumb to the citadel. I say a prayer for Lannister, willing whatever gods he did or did not follow to safely guide him in the afterlife.
Durnn lies face down and I saw a sheathed sword upon the back of his belt. Like the tabard, it also bears the Scales of Justice. I unsheath the sword, and suddenly find myself suspended in darkness. A light forms around my sacrament, and as I draw it, the light strengthens and I feel a burning on my hand. The pain is intense and I feel it, as if my soul is also aflame. Suddenly, I see visions of warriors and battles, all moving by too quickly to retain, but all of which have wielded this sword. I know not what to make of it, and the sensation quickly overwhelms me and I close my eyes. The visions do not leave, and they become a blur. Suddenly, I find myself being shaken by Norgu. He is speaking, but I can barely hear him, as if I am far away. The sensation lingers for a moment, but shortly my senses return. As I get up, Hedrid asks what has happened, but I cannot explain – for it is like a dream, and the visions, although tantalizingly close, are like trying to grasp smoke – they just drift out of reach. I look to my hand, and I see, with great honor, that my faith is accepted. The Mark of Tyr, the scales of Justice, is clearly imprinted on my hand. It seems like a scar, but the skin is unblemished, the mark lies just below the skin. “He has accepted me. My cause is just.” is all I can say. They all look at me strangely.
Hedrid asks to see the sword. After looking at it a moment, he asks if I know what it is. I’ve held this sword for only a moment, but I feel that I have had it for many lifetimes. “Cyfiawnder – justice” is my simple response. He looks at me, and appears to consider claiming it for the Crystal Tower – it is indeed an artifact, one of the likes he has been granted claim to, but this is not his to claim, for this belongs in the hands of one chosen by Tyr. He smiles knowingly and returns the blade to me.
We agree to return to Oakurst and return our fallen ally to the surface. We return to Oakhurst and plan to leave again in the morn. The next day, we quickly make it to the room where Durnn had come from. In the center of this large, circular room, lies a pit. Vines from the cavern floor below lead up to the surface of the pit, making a foolhardy ladder to the caverns below. Erky had told us that Sharwin and Talgen had been taken by Belak to the Twilight Grove, which lies below. Our path is clear, and down we climb. I proceed down with Azgar, and once down we alert some creatures tending to the soil. From a cavern beyond a bugbear, with two large rat pets are quickly upon us. His bravado falls short, as we overpower him and his pets, sending them to meet Durnn in the afterlife.
We pass though a door in the cavern into a carved stone room and passageway beyond. In the hallway are several doors with sounds emanating from beyond many of them. This room looks to be a makeshift laboratory, with many tables throughout covered with what appears to be alchemical tools. In the nearest room, several goblins lie sleeping in a makeshift barracks. The sounds beyond are also goblins, as they appear to be firmly rooted in this area. We need not want to leave such an enemy behind, nor do we stand much a chance of moving through the area without alerting them, so we, instead set fire to their tables, and smoke them out. When they flee, we are waiting and my attempts to convince them to set down arms and surrender, are unsurprisingly, unheeded. We proceed into the rooms beyond after making short work of the vermin that infested it.
In one of the rooms that the goblins were in, there is a sight that stops me in my tracks. A large dire rat, one of the kind that has been infesting the upper levels, is strapped to a table, and it has been infected with something that has turned it into something even worse. Amongst the lesions and sores, this rat looks to have almost wooden, bark-like growths upon it body. As if someone had been trying to merge it with a plant. Based on talk of this Gulthias Tree and some druid in the depths, this may be the case. After Hedrid indifferently examines the so-called specimen, I end it’s suffering. Rummaging though the room, Hedred finds a vial, and belies that this may be of what he was infected with.
Upon reaching another door, Cyfiawnder suddenly starts to emit a blue flame down the blade. The dead have arisen nearby, and we must move cautiously. Several long hallways with many rooms turned into makeshift gardens, all with the strange sickly illuminated plants we’ve seen in these depths. Several skeletons ambush us in one such room, but after eliminating the undead, the blade still glows, suggesting perhaps more dead still roam these hallways. Proceeding forward, we encounter bugbears, who have proven a formidable opponent. Our newest, ally, Ian, uses his deft footwork to end their existence, not once, but twice. Upon felling his second foe, I remarked that he may indeed be worth his weight in gold. Aside me, Azgar shrugs and mutters and says “Aye, all seven stone of ’im.”
We reach a room that has a intricately carved statue of Ashardalon, and are set upon by ghasts. These haunted souls move right through the walls and through through our very armor that has carried is so far in to the deep. The steel of our weapons proves ineffective as they pass right trough them. Within moments, several of my allies have been stuck as such. Although no wound is apparent, it is evident that they have been sorely damaged. We retreat to regroup and recover, and after a short rest, they feel much better, so we proceed forward. I am confident that Cyfiawnder, as blessed by Tyr will strike true, and I ask the fearless dwarf, Azgar to stand by my side and face the spectres again. A small prayer to Tyr empowers his hammer with righteous might, and we reenter the room. Again, from the walls, they attack, but we are ready and our weapons are coursing with Tyr’s might. The shades disperse as does the flame on Cyfiawnder, having returned the dead back to the afterlife, their souls freed of their mortal bindings.
Moving deeper into the complex, we entered a cavern. Nergui’s vigilance identified some goblins hiding in the strange plant growth, and we quickly overtake them. Bolstered by our quick victory, we proceeded with too much haste and walk into another ambush. Rather than goblins, as we were expecting, we were instead set upon by the very plant life. Attacked from all directions, the plant life nearly overwhelm us, but in the end, we turned the tide and, again pull back to regroup. Once we are secure in a room, Nergui starts to divvy out some of the coin he has picked up while down here. He notably excludes Ian, and when Ian asks about it, he assumes that Ian had already taken his cut, since he’s caught him holding back portions of his findings. This angers Azgar, who berates the boy, but it is not of much matter. It is likely he may have had to fend for himself, and has not yet learned to work in a group. While I care not for the coin he keeps, I do remind him that trust is not easily earned back once lost. We depend on each other down here for our very survival and trust in each other is all we have. Losing that could put us all in harms way.
After the short rest, we again delve into the cavern, coming into a large fissure. Remains of some structures lie in ruins all around, and at the far end, a large, towering tree. One could feel its evil, and we knew we had, at last, come upon the fabled Gulthias Tree. In front of the tree, stands Belak, and the Hurcle children. They had similar wooden growths and lesions as the rat, we had come upon earlier. Belak offers us a chance at survival, to submit to the tree, and join him. I serve only one, and it would not be a crazed mortal. The battle in the Twilight Grove was quickly upon is.
We made short work of many of Belak’s minions – a few of the plants we were ambushed by as well as a giant frog, intent on devouring Nergui whole, but we quickly find ourselves at an impasse. The Hercule children are serving Belak, which holds our blades from being used against them. If this spell controlling them could be broken, perhaps they would return to their senses. Unfortunately, they have no such restriction, as Talgen attacked us with uncontrolled fury, while Sharwyn defends Belak by magically removing all wounds we inflict upon him. Azgar sees opportunity, and move in and attacks Belak. He learns too late that the tree itself is sentient. Branches quickly pummel the dwarf, while Talgen shows no compassion and runs him through. The battle suddenly turns against us, as magical wooden spikes tear through Nergui, dropping him without as much as a cry. Before I could seek to aid my companion, Talgen sets upon me, and his violent fury breaks though my defenses. As his blade tears flesh, I see Belak draw the very roots from the earth and surround Ian and Hedrid. It looks bleak, and my heart was heavy with our failure. I exhale my final breath and await Tyr’s warming light.
What seems like an instant later, I am being roused by Hedred and Ian. My sword arm is unresponsive so I am glad to hear that we have one the day. Belak and the Gulthias Tree are no more, and even better is that the Hurcrle children are free of Belak’s control. After I had fallen, Hedrid manage to free himself from the roots and set arcane fire upon Belak, Sharwyn and the tree itself. The tree immediately took to flame, and the control of the Hucrele children was lost. Once freed, and enraged Talgen turned his mighty sword on his former master, Belak. Sharwyn was unfortunately caught in the blast of arcane fire and had fallen as well. I am elated that we have won, although somewhat disappointed that I did not play a decisive role in the victory. They show a sorrow in their eyes that hides something that they are not saying. I take into account the surroundings and note that while Azgar is down, he appears to be stirring. Then the realization hits. I am next to Nergui and he is not moving. A quick check confirms my worries. Nergui has fallen. While helping up Azgar, Ian excitedly finds an apple and Hedrid suspects that the magical powers of the tree may be true. Without hesitation, we pulp the apple force it down the fallen Sharwyn. Moments later, we see the burns seemingly disappear and her eyes flutter open. The legends of the magical fruit are true. We scour the entire area to no avail – There appears to be just the one apple. We have won – the Hurcrle children are alive and the threat of Belak is over. Sadly this victory carried with a it a great price, for three valiant allies have fallen to rescue them.
We move to a more secure location to rest, eventually in a room to the north of the cavern, once deftly unlocked by Ian. This room appears to be a study of sorts for Belak. Tomes,scrolls and potions sit upon a desk, and are quickly perused by Hedrid. He passes one of the potions to me, saying that it will instantly remedy my damaged arm. Taking his word, I down the thick, putrid-tasting concoction. While the pain is intense, the effect is almost immediate. I feel the tendons and muscles in my arm knit and return to working order. Hedrid offers an identical potion to Azgar, who is still feeling the effects of his meeting with the Gulthias tree. Be it dwarven pride or overconfidence, Azgar opts to hold on to it, for when he feels he really needs it. Talgen and Sharwyn keep mostly to themselves. Be it regret over our fallen comrade who lies wrapped in his cloak, or discomfort amongst us, I care not. While I hold nothing against them for their involuntary involvement in what has transpired, I feel a greater need to secure our exit over comforting them. Talgen is angry and wants to vent his frustrations on any perceived adversary, while Sharwyn, a Sister of Mercy , seems to be filled with quiet sorrow. Before Azgar falls asleep, we agree to head out after the rest and return the children to Oakhurst. While there is still a presence of kobolds as well as many untold mysteries down here, I pledged to return the children to their mother. A vow, I do not want to fail on, by dragging them unnecessarily into the unknown and likely dangers contained therein. We agree that we will return here after they are safely escorted to the city. Whatever threats to Oakhurst that may still dwell here will not continue to terrorize the region.
Our solitude is suddenly interrupted by the presence of another. I see an elf in the groove beyond, heading our way. I post Ian on the door behind me, as I move out to the groove to meet the new stranger. Be him a foe, I do not want to battle over our the wounded and sleeping Azgar nor endanger the Hurcrle children unnecessarily. This elf, Mithon, he calls himself, is a druid from the same order that Belak was once apart of, claims to have been looking to end Belak’s evil machinations. His eyes burn with hatred as he talks about Belak, and I feel a sincerity in his words. While, Belak’s vile cause has ended, along with Belak and his garden, he agrees to accompany us back to Oakhurst and return here henceforth.
While the evidence of Belak’s magics quickly diminishing, and the void of goblin forces, we hope for a simple return to the surface. That hope quickly falls short as the kobolds have quickly taken over the upper levels, setting many deadfall traps to complicate our exit and force our path. Our intent to evade the kobolds comes to an abrupt end, as we find ourselves trapped and forced to engage them in the room we had previously defeated the white dragon in. From the south comes several of the kobold soldiers, surprisingly armed and armored, led by one who vows to kill is for slaying their dragon, while from the east, over a dozen of them scamper over and around the pit we hoped would slow them. Still looking to redeem himself, Talgen move forward to engage the dwindling kobolds. A tactical mistake by him, as he becomes the target of their sorceress, who’s arcane energies quickly engulf him. With pained screams, Talgen falls. Ian, again, shows brazen initiative, and engages the sorceress, with support from our elven ally, Mithon. The lead soldier, attempts to retreat and defend his sorceress, but Azgar and I put the vermin down. Moments, later Ian returns into the room, with a smug look on his face, cleaning his blades of the blood of the kobold sorceress.
Looking into the pit, we see one remaining kobold, who is pathetically attempting to play dead. Calling out his ruse, we pull him from the pit, and tell him to flee. His leaders have fallen before us, their forces spattered against our arms and armor. He is to warn any other kobolds that we are coming, and any renaming kobold will be dispatched without mercy. He quickly moves into the rooms beyond. We regroup and move into the kobold warrens – this enemy will not survive the day. In the warren, we see only a small sentry of kobolds, who flee upon our arrival. A makeshift throne sits at the end of a large room, and a draconic-looking key is discovered amidst their ill-gotten gains. Mayhaps this is the key that firmly secured the door that Sorfildor fell at? Another room is a makeshift prison, with three tortured goblin captives. We cut them lose, telling them that their master’s have fallen to us, and leave them to their fate.
We search one room, with a fire pit and a large iron cage, perhaps once holding the very dragon these creatures revered. The room beyond, is infested with rats, hundreds of them. Starved mad, they set upon us with reckless abandon. They move almost as one, with a single-minded purpose, to feed. Our weapons seem ineffective as blades and bows only dispatch a few at a time. They set their sights on Azgar, as he us trying to pull a flammable vial from his backpack, and quickly engulf our dwarven ally. While Ian and I move to pull him from the frenzied swarm, flame erupts from Hedrid’s hands and the rats are incinerated en masse, leaving only a few, who quickly scurry from the room. We treat Azgar, and move to the door, that at one time, so intrigued Sorfildor.
The key fits the lock, and turns, protesting it’s disuse, but relenting. Is the room beyond ,we see several alcoves that appear to have crystals on pedestals. Three of the crystals appear damaged – perhaps by the fall of this citadel into the depths years ago, but one emanates an audible, yet unidentifiable noise, as it radiates a pale blue light. Once in the room, the sound intensifies to an almost unbearable volume. I look to my allies, to see Sharwin, Talgar, and Azgar take leave down the hallway, unable to bear the sounds anymore. Mithon smashed the last crystal, and the sounds stop. With the sound’s end, our allies cease their retreat and return to the mission at hand. While I know little of Sharwin and Talgar’s resolve, I have seen nothing but unrelenting courage at adversity from Azgar. Whatever had affected them, was no mere noise. Hedrid confirms my suspicions, staging that it was likely that the crystal’s acted as a magical ward, keeping those unwanted from the rooms beyond. At the end of yet another hallway, this time one with large statues of elven resemblance, we see a room bathed in a purple light. In the center of the room, lies a large sarcophagus – not surprisingly, carved in a familiar dragon motif.
A pit lies open before the room, a less-than graceful attempt to cross it, lands me at the bottom while Ian easily clears the distance. Moments later, he is falling down next to me in the pit, having been attacked by something above. We move to the room and engage an crackling imp-like creature, a quasit, Hedrid suspects. He does not seem to be affected by normal means, shrugging off many solid blows, but Hedrid’s acrane energies causes him to flee. While a final mad cackle, it cried that we broke the binding of it’s watch over the dragonpriest is over.” An ominous silence surround us as we all found ourselves looking at the sarcophagus.
What lies entombed before us, we know not. But the madness of this dragon cult was apparent. We had been attacked by several forms of the risen dead in here already, followers of this draconic cult. What lies in here, should best be faced by us, rather than loosed unsuspectingly above. We commit to open the tomb. Inside, lies an elf, or at least was once an elf. It was larger than a man, over eight feet tall, with a sickly green skin. With a inhuman growl, the creature rises from it’s slumber and sets upon us. With it’s size, it proves hard to evade the creature, and, again, Talgen falls. It’s skin seems to naturally deflect attacks as many of my allies attacks stuck with less effect than intended. Azgar drops the creature with a devastating blow, only to see the creature’s wounds begin to heal almost immediately. Hedrid says this seemed not unlike a troll, which is weak to acid or fire. Azgar and I keep the creature at bay, reigning down upon it with powerful attacks, only to see it shrug them off and continue to attack with it’s maddening rage, while others hurriedly looked though our packs for lantern oil. Perhaps, if we could hold him back for a moment, we could set him ablaze and end this. Hedrid, needing not to rely on such mundane devices, simply sets the entire sarcophagus ablaze with his arcane energies, effectively destroying the creature within the inferno. The fire soon burns itself out, and Talgen quickly recovers. I feel a sense of peace come over me, or perhaps simply exhaustion. I hope that we may yet see the end of this forsaken pit today.
Perhaps we are simply bolstered by the victory, but we decide to try to gain entrance to one last room, instead of heading back to the surface. A foreboding stone door, adorned with intricate, seemingly water-borne dragon carvings that we had passed earlier. Ian quickly opens the door and inside we see a large cask with metal tubing leading from it into the ground below. Rapping the barrel confirms it is indeed holding some liquid. I open it up, and am stunned to see some form of creature rise from the water with malevolence in it’s eyes and attack with an enraged frenzy. Azgar strikes it with a mighty blow, effectively splattering the creature as a burst wineskin, only to watch it immediately reform and attack again. He generates a burst of water that envelops and begins chocking us. Thankfully, Cyfiawnder bites deep and the strange hellspawn is quickly displaced. Hedrid speculates that perhaps this creature was summoned here and was used to provide water to the citadel. We finally agree that this ravine may no longer be a threat to the people of Oakhurst, and head back to the surface.
Our return is slowed by the return of the impish creature that fled from us in our previous battle against the dragon priest. He severed the rope Ian was using to return to the surface, cackling maniacally as he flew away. Ian, being more embarrassed then injured from his fall, secured a grapple and we put the citadel quickly behind us. As we neared Oakhurst, we saw strange sights at the farms we passed. They showed evidence of an attack, and the smell of smoke was in the air. As we neared even closer, we met with a contingent of so-called guards – a few militia and children armed with sticks that told us that the trees that had grown from the seeds gifted by the goblins had all suddenly come to life and attacked the farmers seemingly in unison. While fire appeared to work against the creatures, it came at the cost of much destruction to the farms as well as the deaths of many of the local farmers. Again, Hedrid speculated that perhaps these gifts from the were thralls under control of Belak and the Gulthias Tree. With their mutual destruction, they may have lost whatever control held them at bay, and they simply acted out. Even after their defeat, they still manage to cause unnecessary death and destruction.
The children accompanying us hear our stories of the defeat of Belak and run ahead of us to town to announce our arrival. An hour later, we arrive in Oakhurst and are lauded about as heroes by the grateful townsfolk. The fearful town is alive and joyous again, and it warms my heart to see the happiness and relief on their faces as we returned with the missing Hucrele children. Sharwyn & Talgen headed immediately for their family’s home, while I made for Sister Demi at the House of Light after agreeing to meet up with the rest of my comrades in the morning. Sister Demi was relieved that the threats in the ravine have been eliminated and then suggested that I bring the news of the unfortunate demise of Sir Bradford to the Church of Tyr in Brindinford. I assured her that I would make for the city once our business in Oakhurst was completed.
Once reunited with my comrades the next morning, I told them of my next destination of Brindinford. Azgar had found a vague map of some dwarven ruins called Khundrukar, but nothing to identify where the map would begin. I suggested that perhaps better and more available resources in Brindinford may identify where this map would be, and if he desired, I’d offer my assistance to him in finding and reclaiming these ruins that had been overrun by orcs and lost in time hundreds of years ago. He agreed, but wanted to check with, Rurik, the local metalsmith, reagrdless. We agreed to wait a few days, rest up and pay our respects to the fallen, before we’d head out. That day, a courier requested us at the Hucrele residence for a dinner and celebration of our accomplishments in the village the next evening. We agreed to attend, except Hedrid, who wanted to study items we liberated from the citadel. I recommended that we get ourselves more presentable, which was met with much apprehension from Azgar and Ian, who reluctantly agreed. I gave Ian the collection of gems and jewelry we found in the depths and asked him to get ourselves a fair amount of coin in exchange. I hope, that by showing him trust, his covetous nature may diminish in light our faith in him. Skeptical looks from Azgar and Mithon at my trust in Ian reaffirms they question my actions, but neither speak against it.
I accompany Azgar to Rurik’s forge, and he shows him the map. Evidently, this Khundrukar, is quite the dwarven legend, known as the Glitterhame – a legendary dwarven stronghold, home of Durgeddin the Black, and he suggests that we take this map to another dwarf, a woman named Shooma, in Brindinford, who he speaks with in high regard. He believes that she may may know more, and perhaps she could point us in the right direction. It appears that our paths both head toward Brindinford. While there, I ask him to craft a iron breasplate for me. While he has spoken well of the smithy in Brindinford, where we are next headed, I feel somewhat obligated to do what I can in Oakhurst, they have suffered, and I’d like to help. While his prices seem much higher than I’d likely be charged in Brindinford, I request he make it, and then head to a tailor to get some finer wares for our dinner tomorrow night. Again, I feel that the outfit that the tailor suggested, that is ‘fit for a king,’ borders on an extravagance that I am almost uncomfortable wearing, I am happy to put the coin back into the village.
Later this night we are at the Hucrele estate with all the notables from the town when Lady Hucrele calls for silence. She passionately thanks us for returning her children and putting an end to the threats that skulked out of the ravine, and that they are forever in our debt. If that public accolade was not enough she brings each of us a tray brimming with silvers, as payment, for a job well done. A am most assuredly refuted in any attempt to not accept the payment, and with some swallowed pride, I try to graciously accept the reward. While I do not believe that this is their intent to make me feel as a mercenary, I feel guilty getting paid for doing something that anyone else should be obligated to do. After the meal, I take a moment to talk to Sharwyn & Talgen. I remind them that they Tyr has blessed them with a second chance at life, one that they should not let go to waste. Many willing sacrifices were made to allow them to live on, and a debt is owed to those who have fallen to now make a difference to the world around them. While the wine may have allowed me to speak more freely than intended, but I do not regret it. Later that night, I bring Hedrid his share, and he sees my conflict. He says that it is not payment for a hired blade, rather rewards that allow me to further my cause. Without it, I could not have the arms and armor to take the fight with the creatures that wrong man. Not only that, but it permits Lady Hucrele to repay the gift that we have bestowed upon her family.
Hedrid call us is up to his room one evening, and asks for to where our next journey will take us. We tell him that we are off to Brindinford, and hoping to find Khundrukar. He offers to join us, under his same conditions of claiming any and all treasures discovered in relation to the Tower. While, this again seems to set of bidding wars between the rest of the group, I find it agreeable, and after too much posturing, we, again come to terms with him. He offers us his ‘claims’ that he had made in the citadel that he feels are trinkets and of no value to the Tower. While the gesture is appreciated, I feel better that he may now trust us enough to not have to worry about us taking the artifacts he seeks. Only time will tell.
It will be nearly a week before Rurik has completed my armor, so I spend much time trying to help the village. The townsfolk disposition has improved much, and aside from the funerals for their friends and family that have recently fallen from Belak’s thrall, life seems to regain a semblance of normal. While we are all often tailed and innocently harassed by the children, it occurs to me that one child, a boy in his mid-teens, has been following me often, but has never approached me. One day, I call out to him, and he runs away. When I ask Sister Demi, who the child is, she tells me his name is Edward Joyce, and his family was one of those killed in the farms. I doubt that it is no small irony that I find myself looking at an orphaned child who has lost his family as Tren had a decade ago. A decision is made, one that was made for me years ago. I will begin to mentor Edward, in the same ideals and ethics that have molded me. If he chooses, a path will lie before him, and the cycle will begin again. He is quiet and smart, he takes quickly to the responsibilities placed upon him, and looks to have good potential. When we make leave Oakhurst to travel to Brindinford at the week’s end, Edward is ready for the next chapter of his life.