Letter #6: More Foes and a New Ally
It has taken me some strength to continue. I wish to compose here what hath happened and to do so whilst it remains fresh in my mind; yet sometimes events can be too fresh in the heart to allow recollection without revealing the soft skin under the fresh scab that hath formed over it.
For, while this entry contains tragedy and occurrences dark and beyond the pressures of the common mortal, no true loss or grief should yet be spent. Let me allay whatever fears you may hold in your soul after this forewarning foreword; no one of consequence or of our band perishes in this instalment of my travels, though we knew not at the time what was to befall our most beloved companions.
I was snapped from my doodling daze – rapidly scrawling what we had just uncovered under the thin layer of gold on the funerary ship – by Leith and Brixton pointing out a descending spider, bigger than the vanishing one and as bulbous as the ones that passed us with two humanoids on their back each and yet still seemed unbothered by the encumbrance.
“The spider – haunter in the dark – has come to feast”, if you know not that famous line, it was penned by Fu’Unklaab Midnight some two or so centuries ago in his Tales of Sidarhael and Beyond. And as it slowly lowered itself, its sticky wire-like web flashing in the beams of light, it’s fangs slick with venom, and its eyes ever black with the oblivion of the soulless, it came for us…to feast.
The others, rather heroically, attacked the creature. Brixton seemed distracted, it was only when he called out to us, exposing the dropping predator, did I hear in his voice a grating rasp. His eyes were wide and he seemed plagued by some inner turmoil as his arrow went wide – it was only then that I noticed that he too had fallen under the effects of the accursed book.
In my own fright upon seeing this sight I let off a spell as powerful as my will would let me, skewering it as the shard exploded into a pulse of frost. Leith’s fire bolt sent its system – I would suspect – into some sort of shock, as the body does going from one extreme climate to the other in so sudden a change – before Adrik’s thrown axe cleaved the arachnid’s abdomen in twain, slipping juice and slime, legs still twitching as the pressure of its ichor left the grotesque body.
Movement was the best course of action. Our delay had only further endangered ourselves; first by discovering an undead or construct of sorts, then by gazing upon a cursed tome, then by narrowly falling prey to another great arachnid. We delved further into the dark with Brixton – as always – leading our way.
As the hall continued, two grand pillars of giants immortalized in stone statues, so tall that even the longer-lived races of the group could not see beyond their sternum; it was upon cresting a ten-foot or so mound of rubble, that Brixton saw two ogres, sitting round a camp fire, laughing and chatting. He halted Leith from advancing, sending him back to warn us.
We were loath to risk peaking our unhidden heads over the rubble without Brixton’s guidance, so had no clear aim upon them. Nor could we hear them clearly, simply their voices not their words, as they were too far and their speech carried and echoed in such away that we could not discern their original voices from the reverberating copies.
Brixton, ever the ingenious and spontaneous thinker that he is, drew from his pack a vial of poison, and advanced to the ogres, hoping to spike their food. However, Fate finally decided that Luck should abandon our friend and leave him at the mercy of Chance; for as he sneaked his way towards their meal, an Ogre grabbed the half-elf by his neck and slammed him against the floor.
Brixton was out could.
Hamir suggested a retreat, as risking further lives could be catastrophic and disastrous to our cause. If Brixton had not been wounded, I would have agreed – but once one is down, all are in. We all agreed that continuing without Brixton would be more dangerous than continuing with an injured Brixton.
Hamir, ever the selfless and brave mage that he was, stood to watch our backs, whilst the three of us – Adrik, Leith, and myself – charged the ogres. Adrik, upon reaching an ogre, is smashed by a club, but he takes the monster’s blow with glee and deals it back just as good as he got!
Leith, with the guidance of his patron, healed Adrik before himself dealing a flaming bolt of pain towards an ogre. Sensing an opening, I magically stepped towards the downed Brixton, and took him behind a rock for cover – recovering our objective and our friend.
Adrik, although gravely wounded, stands his ground – the fury of his clan and his people surging through his body! – and he struck the ogre with such force, one could visibly see a portion of its life force beaten from its body. Leith landed another spectacular bolt of fire, Hamir, sensing an impending loss as Adrik nobly takes hit after hit, sends forth a cone of fire like a dragon’s breath – now I truly know what it was like to be at the Crucible of Fire, and so do these ogres – as the flames lapped at their fatty and swollen forms.
Before me, Brixton struggled against death. For even in his sleep, Death must battle to claim Brixton’s soul. I administered as much as I can.
Brixton’s heart stopped.
Then it started! For in an instant it seemed Brixton was gone. Then, with that kick to the heart, I try once more to administer aid, luckily, stabilizing his drifting spirit, and his eyes flickered open. Brixton was not only alive, but awake!
Adrik slayed an ogre, not wanting to go down without taking them with him! Leith’s firebolt missed, but still even Leith’s magic knows not failure and only provides for the group more. For with this stray spark of fire, for a moment, is a cage hidden by darkness, illuminated and the glint of baleful eyes stare out at us.
The captured figures in the cages. Somehow the ogres had them! Another searing burst of fire as Hamir’s hands spewed forth a storm wildfire. The last ogre – previously unharmed until now by Hamir’s burns – landed a lasting blow on Adrik.
His chain mail clattered and his warhammer landed a mighty metallic echo as his body fell to the stony ground. Brixton, without a second thought or moment of respite, drew his daggers and began launching them at the monster before us.
The ogre seemed focused on Brixton, spelling another possibly fatal blow. Then it focused its gaze on Leith, as a firebolt seared across its bubbling flesh. Then to Hamir, as he cast from his palms another scorching cone of flames. The ogre seemed only concerned attacking who had attacked it last.
With that in mind, I took my chance, dashing to Adrik and – on the high of Brixton’s revival – attempted to administer help with Adrik, failing poorly as he continued to haemorrhage blood from his wounds. Brixton announced a solution, and I ran with it, emptying a healing potion down Adrik’s throat.
Even facing off against an ogre after narrowly escaping the clutches of Death’s claws does Brixton still have within him a keenly aware and astute mind. Leith, with a masterful shot that expertly matched his slaying of the spider, engulfs the ogre’s head in fire, and he landed with the other ogre in the very fire-pit the two had been roasting from.
We moved cautiously to the cages Leith’s stray shot had brilliantly illuminated for that split-second, and we saw the two figures within each of the cages; the figures from before in one and the drow riders that passed us some time ago in t’other. As for the giant spiders, they lay dead amongst the rubble, for it was their torn and dripping appendages that the ogres had savaged with their tusks.
Brixton, whilst indulging us in the “place in the dark” he visited during his short tenure in the afterlife, picked the lock of the cage belonging to our somewhat familiar strangers. Only one stepped out, an elf woman. The other, alas, had seemingly succumb to the darkness and the gloom of the Underdark we were now evidently well delved within.
Leith began attempting to converse with these “dark-elves” – despite their pale, near transparent complexion, the misnomer must come from their environment. Or their souls. Legends speak of their naturally cruel, callous hearts. Though I for one believe that we are all products of our environments. Some accept the villainy pressed upon them, others reject it. Neither one is more noble than the other, for rejecting villainy is not a noble act but instead it is the most common, decent act a mortal life can make. Yet, the bar of morality is set low in our realm.
These drow seemed incapable of understanding the terra firma language of the elves in spite of their own biological connection to that most noble of races. Leith attempted it in common, yet how they would converse in the tongue of the most lowly of mortals and not comprehend that of their surface-dwelling cousins is beyond me. Yet, as suspected, they seemed just as confused at the strange collection of vowels thrown at them as before.
Adrik stepped forth, being a master of all things under-ground, he spoke their tongue. A harsh yet incredibly interesting dialect known as Undercommon.
Desperate for freedom from these cages, the drow promised to enlighten us the way to treasure, more treasure than we had passed previously – the one held within the eon-decayed ship. Adrik’s lack of suspicion in regards to their ulterior motive was well founded, yet I believe he might have taken them too literally. For my comprehending spell of languages was still up – for, although it seemed like hours, we had only been passed by these drow not half-an-hour ago – I believed that perhaps it wasn’t the treasure or leading us to it that they had their sinister intent, but perhaps what laid within that hoard of wealth they promised us upon release.
That serpentine skeleton that assailed us as we inspected the gold within the funerary ship was probably one of many guardians the Ostorians summoned or instilled within these ruins, protecting their beloved and most revered from grave robbers and tomb raiders – that is us.
I realised at this moment that we had been most rude to our rescued sister – for a sister to the Daughters of Twilight she was – and introduced myself accordingly.
Gudael Dala Talandaran, a cleric who had been studying with the Daughters of Twilight for fifty years – by my life, her studies had taken up the whole mortal sum of my own being thus far – stood grander than myself but I dare say not as looming as Master Leith.
She was of a darker complexion, her sapphire blues eyes gazed upon all she saw with the radiance of her deity. White-silver hair swept from her face, meeting with the alabaster robes of devoutness she wore under her panels of tanned and leathered armour. From her belt and pack – once they had all been returned to her person – hung weapons of deadly means and impeccable make: a spiked mace, a well-tempered longsword, a crossbow – Madame Talandaran seemed more than prepared for her journeying below the surface.
Yet, character is in the heart, not the mortal flesh that comprises our bodies. For in her countenance, one could see the strength of a determined soul. One whose purpose is heaven sent – quite literally – for her opal eyes seared with a dedication that could not be waned or wavered by any mortal or immortal being – save for that one of her most zealous faith.
Gudael was sent down into these ruins in accordance to the orders of her deity; yet, vague on specifics, she tarried not and held no reservations nor second-guesses in her mission to uncover what her most holy of patrons had guided her to seek.
It is truly strange to see two elves, both of the most moral upstanding, holding fast to a most tangible faith, both seeking the guidance of the Daughters of Twilight, yet for them to seemingly separate their methods of obtaining divine magic, or to whom they pledge their souls. Leith’s pact to a being versus Gudael’s devotion to divinity.
These drow riders claimed they were escorting Gudael to ‘help’, as she was ‘wandering’ and thus lost. However, the way in which they restrained her, removed from her person her effects, and then – whether they accompanied her or were another poor soul picked up along the way; before or after Gudeal – her fellow cell mate’s passing, it seemed very unlikely that they were entirely speaking the truth in this regard.
Once we had discussed exactly what we were going to do with these drow – keep them in their cages and float them round on a floating disk spell designed by none other than the great Tenser himself – it was time for a rest, as all of us were rather exhausted from the day’s exploration. And those of us – such as Hamir, Brixton, and Adrik – who had taken some grievous hits in the previous combats, needed to take a rest.
And so, we rested, taking stock of our luck and our supplies before finally finder slumber – at least most of us; as Leith, with his elven patience, stood watch while he rested, giving company to Gudael whilst she searched for her stolen inventory, for spending such a tediously long time in those cages without sustenance had left her famished.
In that hopefully dreamless sleep for the others, and my terror ridden doze, I shall leave this entry here. Having defeated several creatures of great power, freeing one who will, no doubt, become a great ally and friend of ours in the hours and days to come, and us gaining a long and well-deserved rest.
I hope this letter, and all I write down here reach you. I am aware that, as we suffered some causalities – close to fatalities – during our time here, that I may never return to the surface to post these to you.
Perhaps some other Barachial employed fool is down here, reading my notes. Perhaps this letter is being discovered another few decades or even centuries in the future by some civilization or peoples unknown to us. Perhaps this remains a scrap of the undecipherable letters of a man lost in the caves and tunnels of the Underdark, for you and you alone know of my script that I write in. Perhaps I should teach it to one of my companions, should something untoward happen to me.
May love and prosperity find you, Maria dearest,
Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff