One: Ordered by Gods
Flame & Shadow
Cuthberta Clairesularday & Cuthberta Umberselunday
An Account by Thalazzar
Flames in the Darkness
Thalazzar shuddered as he once again treaded into the dark, cool water of the Bakare underground, following along the rope towards Calibre. On the far side stood Frankie, dripping wet and holding the lantern a moment while the others crossed. As they amassed on the far side, the wizard could see only a few dozen feet down the corridor in front of them. They bore light, perhaps too much, especially since the beggar had taken to glowing.
The strange man seemed blessed by some power. His weaving movements and speaking in riddles were undoubtedly drawing the attention of something in the beyond. Thalazzar still did not trust the man, but he could no longer say the beggar was not pulling his weight with their little group. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the Claimer and the knight as they cautiously moved down the hall before them, slowing pushing through the shallow pool that marked the spot where they had retreated the day prior.
Thalazzar found his footing through the pool with the help of Kalthanalas, staying in the middle of their group. He thought it strange that the giants had created this place but wondered more as to its purpose and what parts of it lay buried forever beneath the marsh above. The wizard felt better prepared today for the evils of these deeps. Yesterday, he had focused his magical preparation on combating the agents of the Order – perhaps gnolls or some other minions. It had proved less useful on the strange, ancient evil that filled this place. The evil, it seemed, had taken care of those that had entered previously and now used their felled power for its own dark purposes. Thalazzar felt more confident in his magic today. He had focused on his conjurations, and was drawing nearer to unlocking a connection to the plane of Mechanus. His time crafting the wicked spikes and springs of the Khi’Ganad had given him an understanding of that strange world and the riddle to open that gate lay just outside his grasp. With a smile he thought of how Frankie would react when he unleashed the denizens of that dimension to do his bidding.
The party traversed another pool, deeper than the last, but ultimately passable. Halting at the base of a broad staircase, Domaldi held his father’s map before him in order to study their route by lantern light. Consulting with the dwarf on their direction, they passed by some corridors and climbed upwards. Nearing a junction, it became clear that either their map was in error or something was missing. Investigating, Frankie nearly fell through an illusionary wall into a hidden door beyond. As the gnome fiddled with the lock, the party peered into the darkened corridors around them. Something was hidden in the dark. It was something dark and unspeakable that they did not need Domaldi’s premonitions to sense. There were whispers in the shadows. Frankie worked quickly on the door but apparently not quickly enough.
Suddenly the darkness exploded with a rush of flame and heat. The gnome managed to duck into the alcove (DM: Actually, she slipped down into the foot of water in which everyone was standing) of the portal but the rest of the companions were blasted from their feet by the force of the arcane fiery assault. Thalazzar was set aflame and blown several feet down the corridor. Unable to rise or even squelch the flames, Arek rushed to his aid while the rest of the party attempted to form a defensive block. The wizard thought to warn his companions to spread out before another attack came but his lips were too charred to speak.
With a click, the door gave and Nimbus was through followed quickly by the rest of the party. None wanted to face what lay in ambush in the darkness. Although Moradin had saved Thalazzar yesterday, they were too far in the depths of evil for his call to be heard and Domaldi was forced to channel his own healing energy into the conjuror. On his feet, the party hustled through the hidden portal and into the chamber beyond, leaving whatever lay in the darkness to follow and plan its next attack.
Inside, their light revealed a large chamber. Thalazzar leaned against the wall and braced himself with his staff to catch his breath. Tiberio was within the chamber quickly, searching for something to brace the door closed with. The warriors ventured deeper into the chamber. Then something strange happened with the door. Where once it had been closed, it was open. Even though he could see nothing and could do little to warn his companions, Thalazzar sensed something afoot and managed to cast a minor divination to detect magic in the room. He hoped that he could identify whatever evil presence had joined them in the chamber but, alas, it failed to detect anything. What’s more, the wizard had completely spent himself and had not the energy to cast another spell.
Gazing at the chamber, the party found that this giantish hall reached up above them into darkness. With them in the room, standing like enormous statues were ancient, rusted suits of giant armour accompanied by matching huge weapons. As Tiberio and Frankie sealed them into this chamber, their other companions found another locked exit on the far side and called for them to help. At that moment, they realized that they were indeed not alone in the room as two of the giant armoured behemoths stepped down from their pedestals. Panic gripped the party as the creatures raised their twelve foot blades to strike. The beggar rushed to hold one off, his nimble dance dodging the automaton’s blows. His glowing shield even caused the animated armour’s rusted sword to crumble to dust upon impact.
The other companions turned to engage the second as Thalazzar hobbled away from the combat. Arek called to Moradin and brought down a bolt of holy light into the darkness, briefly illuminating the chamber in its entirety. The wizard stole a glimpse upwards and was rewarded by a ceiling framed by huge stone spans and gigantic frescos of Bakare history. It might have been beautiful had not the group been in such a dire situation.
At that moment, the evil in the shadows chose to appear. Their adversary was a wild-eyed, white haired goblin hag - very much alive in contrast to her undead, now returned to death, companions. With a snarl she unleashed her magic once again, filling the chamber with a pillar of webs from floor to ceiling. Snaring most of the party within the column, the unengaged automaton took the opportunity to attack smashing into both Arek and Calibre the clockwork with its enormous weapon causing great damage. The dwarf, calling to Moradin, used his magic to sink into the stone floor thus saving his life.
Domaldi, free of the webs, charged the goblin hag who, distracted by a well-timed arrow from Tiberio, was felled in two quick strokes before she could cast again. Thalazzar, badly wounded and unable to cast his magic, used all of his energy to keep the pillar of magical threads between him and the giant armoured monster. The beggar, seeing his companions in trouble, bravely attempted to draw the second suit of Bakare armour onto him with a well placed stone throw. The paladin shouted a cry to Heironius, rushed around the webs and laid into the first golem, bashing it to pieces with his magic hobgoblin blade until Calibre was finally able to bring it down with an arcane orb of acid.
Sensing the battle turning, the companions focused on the unarmed remaining enchanted armour, pummeling it with fists, swords, arrows and bolts. Thalazzar, unable to help, investigated the goblin corpse before more statues came to life and they had to flee without a clue as to her purpose. As the second automaton was brought down, felled through both legs by a mighty swing from Domaldi, Thalazzar pocketed several of the goblin’s magic trinkets for the companions to share later.
The fight concluded, the party rested in the giantish hall, allowing Frankie and Tiberio time to discover several vaults connected to the main chamber. After some time at rest, Thalazzar’s strength began to return and he was able to unlock the other door from this chamber. They did not leave immediately, however, and it was fortunate that they did not as the companions uncovered within the vaults an immense historical treasure – a lost history of the Age of Giants. Rifling through the ancient documents, Tiberio rapidly tried to absorb much of the tales as he could for there was no way that the group could move anymore than a small fraction of the find. Interestingly, Thalazzar was able to help decipher some of the work, particularly those parts that dealt with fighting the One. In fact, there were some scrolls inscribed with Yithic magic that the conjuror was also able to pocket. Through his studies, Thalazzar was becoming to come to grips with the ancient and powerful threat posed by this deity.
Before moving onwards into the depths, the companions investigated that which was taken from the goblin hag. One item, a ring, provided an answer to the now obvious mystery as to how the goblin had pursued them. It was enchanted with a powerful illusion that caused its wearer to vanish. While illusions were beyond Thalazzar’s study, he recognized that it would be of great use to the group. They now carried so many trinkets that they would need a week in town to decipher all their purposes. That is, if they survived the rest of their journey through the dark…