“The Price of Enduring”
Evening of the 8th of Trisad, 1331 Avard.
The Clan of Caerne had within them lit a fire. The secret room had yielded a treasure trove of enchanted items, and they wondered at what other items might be elsewhere in the ancient mining complex. Towards the west lay a passage they had yet to explore, and so they proceeded onwards once they had some of their wind back.
The passage led into a massive cavern in which their torches could barely penetrate. To the right of the passage sat a statue made of the same metal as coated the sharpened undead skeletons. Another statue sat next to the first on the far side of the torch light, and both statues were easily twice the size of a normal man. The first statue depicted a surveyor using one of the ancient devices, while the second seemed a worker merely waiting for his instructions.
As near they could tell, the surveyor statue had some resemblance to statues dedicated to Mikindim, the God of Architecture and Engineering. The ancient surveying devices used water to help make a level, but the addition of water to the device, after climbing onto the statue, did nothing.
They began to make their way further along the right-hand wall, and then a wave of heat struck them from the second statue. It opened its eyes, revealing red-hot metal. Another wave of heat radiated out from the statue, and its joints melted enough to allow it to move. It was an elemental, but unlike any of the others they had encountered before – it was composed of both fire and earth together, in one giant elemental.
The lava elemental turned to the side and hurled the surveyor statue forward, blocking their escape. Heat pulsed out from the creature, causing their clothing to singe and their skin to break out in sweat. They attacked, as the creature turned back to them. The elemental struck them with both massive fists, each independant of the other. Liam was slammed against the wall, first Telamon and then Saebael targetted by the thing's fiery rage.
A rent appeared in its metal hide, and lava bled through knicks they inflicted with blades and claws. Even Rumus' power seemed to cause the creature some grief. Within moments, enough heat had been bled away from the creature that it froze into position, preparing to strike once more. They watched the elemental cautiously, waiting for it to reawaken, but it appeared completely defeated.
Where it had been kneeling, lay a pile of ancient and mouldering, sharpened, metal-covered bones.
Working together, they moved the first statue enough to let them squeeze through if they wanted. They debated on returning to the outside, and Kwartz and the horses, but decided against it.
They pressed onwards, following the passage to the right. The cavern gradually narrowed into a room full of broken rock and uncleaned tailings. The roar of water could be dimly felt through the floors, and they wondered if another elemental was waiting for them.
Liam realized that they were moving into the mines themselves. The raw ore from the mine would be brought to where they were, and further processed. The lava elemental had probably been a part of the foundary, where intense heat would help free the raw metals from the rock.
Once they had passed the rock crushing cavern, they found the mine shafts themselves. There were two of them, one to the right, and one to the left. Between them seemed a smaller shaft, not used for mining. The prints of skeletons were deep in the dust, there, and the air seemed moist. They chose the middle, smaller passage, hoping to find it more defensible should they encounter anything unwanted.
Barely a dozen paces into the middle passage, they encountered metalized skeletons moving towards them. They formed up and attacked, defending at the same time they hammered into the skeletons. There were nearly a dozen of them, and they hit hard, throwing sharpened, metal-covered bone or slicing at them with sharpened bits of bone. In the end, the skeletons fell, but not without adding a few new scars.
They took a short rest, waiting and watching for signs of attack, and then pressed on, again.
The smaller passage opened up. It looked as though the mine shaft had broken through some other wall, into a place that had lain inside the mountain before even the Shaping Wars. Inside, they explored cautiously, noting how different was the architecture, and the plating of some strange stone over the walls. They found a ballustrade of some sort, and Telamon leapt up to investigate, getting a helping boost from Saebael.
Skeletons hissed, and the whole of the room echoed with the hissing of even more skeletons. They had awoken something horrible. Sharpened bone – thankfully without metal plating – struck them from all sides. Metal-plated, sharpened bone moved, and three of the more terrifying types of undead moved to intercept the party.
Their attention focused on what the three metalized skeletons were guarding – a sarcophagus covered with elven bones, all in black, with owl feathers attached. The black skeletons began to move, infused with moving darkness and vile shadows and a horrific green light that tickled the edges of vision. Here, then, was the source of the undead in the region. Here, then, was the spirit that had killed Grandfather Caerne. Here, then, was the spirit that had possessed the elf Ethelen. Here, then, was the spirit that had killed Godmother Malleah, Sir Tyrne le Bouef, and many others near and dear to them. Here, then, was the source of the evil that threatened the lands of even the wilden.
And they had awoken it, recalling the spirit from its wanderings outside the complex to once again take up its own bones.
Liam and Telamon focused all their hatred and all their fiercesome power on that blackened elven skeleton, ignoring wounds that would kill lesser men to get at it. They broke so many of the blackened skeleton's bones, taking punishment from the guardians all the while, that the blackened skeleton retreated across the room. The hail of sharpened bone continued to fall upon them, with one side relentlessly attacked by Saebael and Rumus.
Saebael, whom had leapt up onto the ballustrade after Telamon to protect him from the undead there, leapt back down, and angled in to aid the Clan of Caerne. Aelar went down in a vicious attack, while Liam hammered again and again at the blackened skeleton, praying fervently to Whalin for more and more strength.
Liam could feel his lifeblood flowing out of him, weakening even as he beat the last of the bones apart from one another, and scooping them quickly into a bag. He turned, seeing his cousin Aelar down, and Telamon bleeding from many wounds. And then Saebael, too, went down, trying to rescue Aelar before the guardians could tear him to pieces.
Telamon and Liam realized how helpless and precarious their situation was. Indecision wracked them, as more sharpened bones flew out of the darkness and the guardians moved to kill them.
What happened next would be a confusing welter of emotions for the rest of their lives. They remembered Aelar, somehow, getting up. They remembered Liam, helpless, at the mine passage. They remembered Telamon staying behind to give Aelar a way out. Aelar, running with the bag of blackened bones, and dropping it. Rumus, Saebael's companion, the enormous panther, running away with the bag of bones – and leading the guardians in a chase after it. The necromatic spirit that had caused them such grief animating Saebael's body and using it against them. Restraining Saebael with tears in their eyes as they permanently dealt with the spirit once and for all, using the scroll given them by the priests…
And then it was done. The spirit was defeated. There, in the darkness, they slumped against the sarcophagus covered in Saebael's blood, and much of it their own, as well. The lid of the sarcophagus slid aside, revealing the raiments of the elven spirit itself.
The lone torch still glowed but fitfully on the floor of the ancient room, throwing moving shadows about the room.
Midnight the 8th of Trisad, 1331 Avard.
THU29APR2010. We met at Sommer's place again, and I just managed to get most of the player sheets updated with the loot from the last session. Ross brought his laptop that we hoped to get on the network, but we ran out of time before the session started and we got down to business.
I feel bad whenever any of my players loses a character, and worse when it's my girlfriend. I hope the loss helps the party as a whole to rethink some of their strategies – or at least find new ways to get in trouble. Sommer's replacement for Saebael might help considerably, and be more in tune with what the party needs to rush in where the brave are fearful and fools quake in terror.
Plenty of people earned new scars, tonight. Using the body-roll die to determine where a new scar is, each time they're bloodied, is proving entertaining. We're beginning to understand just how scarred up the average adventuring group must be!
Ah, almost forgot – major and minor quest rewards! The spirit that started this whole campaign is defeated! Everyone leveled up!
There is always more to do!! :)
Telamon has a few loose ends to tie up, but his adventuring career is coming to a close rapidly. I'm actually pretty curious to see what all is left to do now that the main objective is complete.