Letter #7: "Haunters in the Dark"
Updated: Feb 22
I must start this letter off by disclosing that quite some portion of this entry has been written with some creative liberty. For I was not present, aware, or able to view in its entirety the events that unfolded and have been writ hereafter.
After our encounter with the ogres, having almost lost two of our numbers, and freeing from a cramped and morbid imprisonment an elven cleric captured by the very same drow that now sat caged like she had; the loveable scamp Milford Brixton, our giant and melee expert Adrik Fogdar, the intelligent yet jittery Master Leith Mystralath, our escort and cruel jab maker Hamir, the aforementioned divine cleric Gudael Dala Talandaran, and the corpulent and sluggish Edryn Montkoff – yours truly – hunkered down for a good long slumber – for those of us who needed it – and rested.
Leith, in his meditative state, stood watch over your group. Gudael sought her equipment – her arms and rations.
During Madame Talandaran’s search for her personal effects – which she did indeed recover from a hidey-hole – she found a small chest. It took Brixton going ogre over and assisting with his dexterousness before the chest could be released from its nook. Leith identified the script on this box to be in elvish, and warned of an explosion – some glyph of warding - that, should the box be opened without it’s correct key or be tampered with in anyway, it would explode.
The key might, predictably, be with the drow, as it seemed to be one of their items the ogres had stashed away. The three waited till – for lack of a better word – morning for Adrik to address the drow to find a potential way into the chest.
Brixton tried his own hand at conversing with the drow in the meantime, to the same result as Leith had encountered the day earlier.
Adrik, finally roused from his sleep by the combination of movement within the campsite and his own internal clock, cracked his back – the sound like a tower of bricks sent down a flight of stairs – having slept upright against a rock the whole night – dwarves do perplex me, or at the very least, just this one – and asked the drow questions, to which we got these replies:
The chest contained valuables from their home. Valuables that belonged to their matriarch, Makaeda Ra’Ash of the city Abnogg Gurr; for, if you are unawares, the drow follow a strict matriarchal society.
It was at this point that Gudael collapsed to the ground, feverishly shaking; her eyes rolling to within the back of her skull. Adrik went to investigate what the cause of these sudden convulsions were but found no immediate external reason to this sudden change in her.
Hamir suggested putting something within her mouth so that the young Madame Talandaran would not swallow her own tongue. Brixton wrapped his arrow in cloth and placed it between her teeth – after Adrik suggested the grip of his hand axes, which Hamir pointed out might be too large. Children that Mother – that unscrupulous old crone we met – looked after, Brixton said, often suffered these too in their earlier years and so, having done all they could, they let her settle and rest.
Here, the drow claimed to have found Gudael like this – twitching and spasming – and picked her up for her own safety. Why they never put forth this information that may have given us a more sympathetic lens to their intents before, led to some suspicion that they weren’t entirely truthful.
They then insisted that some medicinal aid to Gudael’s seizures could be found in the enchanted chest. Naturally, Adrik wasn’t buying it. They claimed that the runes around it – which Leith quite cleverly had discerned were protective and exploding glyphs – were just to keep foolish treasure hunters away; as if foolish treasure hunters would know the runes used to set a glyph of warding or some such magics…
Brixton, grasping the opportunity from thin air, took the box to them and offered to open it in front of them. With Adrik as translator, they insisted it would be bettered opened closer to Gudael – giving more suspicion to their words. Brixton, in his infinitely clever wit, feigned to open the box before them. As he made the sudden movement, the drow shot backwards, rocking the cage with their anxiety and fright. Yet the box remained closed, and their ‘hand’ – so to speak – was exposed before them.
Adrik inquired after the key, and the two began conversing in a serious of hand gestures. Luckily, the talented rogue that he is, Brixton knew this sign language as ‘thieves cant’, and ascertained that the key was likely on the ogre’s person. Adrik tried, in vain, to find the key on the ogres’ person before hearing some snicker come from me and then finally addressed me.
What, Edryn, were you doing at this time? How come you were too good to help with all this chaos? Well, dear Maria, I was still fast asleep. Some strangely resonant snore must have escaped my sinuses and caught Mister Fogdar’s attention. For, as he called my name, with a snort I was brought out of my sleep like a fish hauled from the nurturing sea.
Imagine my sight when I awake to find the young elf woman we had just rescue lying on the floor – twitching here and there – with an arrow shaft placed between her teeth, Brixton threatening drow with some strange box, Adrik fondling an ogre’s loin cloth, and Leith – nervously – searching some strange cranny with his hand; not the least bit helpful in this situation was that once again my gout was giving me grief – less so now than before I forbade myself port, but ‘twas still sore.
Gudael was now awake and stood. Inquiring after her condition, she said that it had been happening for some time now; that she could get these seizures anywhere and that they could occur at any time from three times a month to three times a day.
I was explained all that had happened and took a look at the chest and its strange rune myself. I agreed with Leith that it was indeed a rune of explosive power, likely to damage us with the same force as that arcanely locked eldritch-tome that plagued my sleep that night – thus why I slept so late into the day and still felt groggy as I rose – unless we had the key.
Leith was in the middle of suggesting we wait for the Barachial Envoy to open it when I was able to discover the key tucked in the same cranny Leith was investigating – missed by him only due to the never-ending chaos that was being perpetrated all about him until I awoke. With my spectral mage hand, I unlocked it, and had Leith’s own mage hand open it, for I feared setting off the rune should I remove the hand from the key.
Within, we saw that there were gems, coins, and a potion. Leith and I, weary of any other warding magics within the chest, used our spectral hands to remove and inspect the items. The gems were of good cut, each approximately fetching five-and-twenty gold or so at a jeweller’s – six in total – and the potion in question had written about it in arcane glyphs the runes and symbols for clairvoyance.
Adrik made some quip along the lines of “Clairvoyance? Never heard of her” and I asked whether he could identify the coins – as he was, thus far, the only present expert on coins; while they were Osteroian relics he had inspected before, I did not want to assume he knew nothing of other such fine coinage, being a dwarf; as dwarves are known for their expert craftsmanship and smitheries, it was a possibility he would recognise the make.
All he could surmise were that they were drow coins and made of gold.
Leith suggested he take care of the potion, to which Hamir berated the young elf. “All things found down here belong the Barachial Envoy”, before he launched into a scathing critique of Leith’s abilities. I reasoned that, to ensure our own survival, as well as ensuring the seizure of the wealth we were sent down to obtain, that utilising all available tools would be useful, and between recovering the gold or death, it would be preferable for Leith to use to potion if need be; but if we returned to the surface without having used it, then naturally he would hand it over.
This seemed to set Hamir’s qualms to rest, though I believe he disliked the idea of one of us using a salvaged magic item for our own use; though I can imagine the drow too disliked some strangers taking items belonging to their place of cultural heritage.
It was then that scurrying was heard. The clicking-clack of eight long, hairy legs, threefold in their advancing number, the mutterings of voices not too dissimilar from the tongue the captured drow conversed in.
I spent my time casting a spell, so that I could understand their talk once more, but by the time I was finished – only a moment – the campsite was deserted of all familiar faces.
As the skittering got closer, the sound of chattering voices and chittering pincers slowly encroaching onto my vulnerable self, the ever-noble Milford Brixton leaped from the darkness and took me to behind a mound of rubble.
I dared not expose my head, should it expose the location of the rest of me, but heard that just as the footfalls reached their climax, the drow riders stopped at our campsite. Seeing their allies approach our caged prisoners yell “They are hiding! It’s a trap!” and then proceeded to mock Adrik – who they seemed to dislike the most; probably because he was the only one they understood and was also their point of interaction with the rest of our group.
They jeered, something along the lines of, “Now you’re dead, little man!” to which, Adrik responded by emerging from the darkness saying “Little? I’m a very big man, thank you very much!” and at this moment, Adrik once more grew to the size of the very same ogres we had been fighting.
Then, all went dark. Some spell the drow had casted encompassed Adrik, and with him, the smouldering camp fire that gave off what little light we had - what little light I had.
The echoing cacophony of crossbow bolts loosened; spells being cast and hitting their shelled mark; Adrik’s rage-filled war cries; the distinct sound of Brixton’s arrows notching and shooting forth from their bow; it was as if it were a battlefield. It was a battlefield, though merely a skirmish of one.
Leith’s voice – cursing a damned arachnid in his eyes – carried over the field, then a stray beam of frost blasted against the side of my rubble. In an effort of self-preservation, not seeing I could do much with my limited view, I cast upon myself a magical and abjorational armour, and then crawled for cover.
From across the room, I heard Gudael’s calm yet stern prayer resonate throughout the cavern system, and I could for a moment gleam the slightest pulse of energy from Brixton – who had evidently, as our bravest and most visually unimpaired fighter, been blessed by the generous cleric, before the sound of a sword could be heard rendering a leg from a spider’s thorax.
Two shots from Brixton’s side, and a giant spider could be heard screeching, it’s joints sickeningly curling from the half-elf’s fatal blows. Beams of cold hit and missed, backed by the summoning call of Leith.
From the globe of darkness, Adrik called out to Brixton. The rogue replied, evidently giving Adrik the orientation he needed to charge from that ink-well of oblivion and back into the fray. The sounds of a warhammer bludgeoning air were followed concurrently by the sound of a smaller bolt piercing armour and sinking into the muscle and sinew of the enlarged dwarf.
In my blindness, I thought I could do no harm in aiding – regardless of my lack of vision – and fired a knife of ice and where I thought I last heard the scuttling of an enormous form. As it exploded into shards of glass-like frost, another spider screamed in its bestial tongue, and the damaged screech of another and its rider within close proximity trailed.
There was a sound of a longsword broke exoskeleton, and the crunch of armour broke beneath it. A glimmer of light, a faerie fire, appears within close proximity to who I believe was Brixton – I only believe this because the figure was fast and skilful enough to remove themselves from the appearing and revealing glow.
Gudael’s call of her faith lends itself to a ball of fire, immolating a drow’s skull as he screams, falling from his saddle atop his spider. The patter of Brixton’s feet skipping across rock, debris, and pillar, sounded before the swing and clank of metaling hitting stone. There was flash of a blade, reflecting the flaming skull of a drow, that was driven into the neck of another – gurgling its dark blood, the drow went limp.
Adrik’s war-cry was louder now, and his hammer swung, but ricocheted off the carapace of the spider’s bulk. The darkness now dropped, lending me light from the fireplace that was now free from its evocational cap. Two spiders were broken open, their appendages coiled under their bodies, and all standing drow now lay dead.
The spectral longsword, obeying the waving hand of its owner – the cleric Gudael – swung against the last spider, cracking its armour open, ooze weeping from the wound, but it still stood. Brixton landed a glamourous strike against the beast, squelching the flesh beneath, forcing the arachnid into its death throws before the life finally drained from its form.
Leith, in an instant stormed towards the caged drow, furious at their exposure at our presence, and demanded their unwavering aid or else face death. He wanted their “honest assistance” which I doubted very much we were going to get. Milford approached and with his hand gestures, seemed to imply something similar of the sort and Adrik, still in his enlarged form, tore the cage door from its hinges in a display of almighty strength.
Before him knelt the two drow, offering their hands to be bound – one was by manacles, the other by rope. Their names, though Adrik seemed little concerned for them, were Mindrahl and Kaeleah. Whilst this went on, Gudael searched their bodies. I myself, dampened the fire and, once cooled, placed the coal into my bag – hoping to soon collect all that I needed in order to resummon Tupp, my familiar whom I lost upon my first evening in Vaingate.
I cannot say that I am at all angry or surprised at our drow’s actions. Would we, captured by invaders to our land and raiders of past cultures, not have called to our allies for help? Informing our rescuers of our imprisonment and the threat our captors held? Would we not do these in their position?
I have qualms about holding these drow. Not only the morality of what my compatriots may do in order to keep our presence secret, but also what traps they may lead us into or what lies they may spin. Perhaps we could turn them over to the Barachial Envoy, yet I fear what they may do to the drow may be no more merciful than what perhaps Leith or Brixton have in store.
These creatures are no eviler than my father’s soldiers; for I saw their souls and hearts as they were carried back from the Crucible of Fire. Their skin still bubbling, all hair scorched from their flesh, calling for their mothers’ love to save them from this torment; but it was their eyes that revealed all. The innocent eyes of ignorant followers who were ordered to die for something they didn’t believe in.
Who called these drow their friends? Were they called ‘papa’ or ‘mama’? What celebration or birthday will they miss now that their souls have been rendered from their mortal form? Was their last thought one of rage or vengeance, of pure evil? Or was it of their lover’s face, or the child they’ll never see again? Were their death throws filled with regrets like mine were?
I don’t know. Perhaps my mind is just rattled by guilt. Guilt and regret ridden dreams of wasting a life, only now to subject these poor souls to the same fate my family forced others into.
I am not my father’s son. Nor am I my brother. I pray our son is neither.
Tell me when thou can as to how our boy fairs. I know uncle Gadolf does all he can for the boy, but even the grand General Baron Gadolf von Johann-Montkoff can only do so much for that boy.
I hope the stress of the letters get to you not, for if you have received them, then I have sent them. If I have sent them, then I am alive and well. You see that my companions are not so hard to kill, hearty adventurers of the most battle-hardened mettle. And with a cleric of such dedication and righteousness watching our backs and souls, I feel now, more than ever, that we will be alright.
I hope to hear from you soon. Writing these letters have been so strange. I expect a reply yet have not yet sent a single one. Once I am clear of these ruins – and even some time after that – will I then post these to the Northern Skyreaches and to Vanderhold.
I hope Dolores is keeping you well fed and well entertained. I know you care for her greatly, and the two of you are closer than we ever were. She never fails to lift your spirits, and without this grouch around, I’m sure your morale is now exceeding whatever it was when I still resided in the Stretch.
I hope also that Herr Tunnefrik is not scolding you too much for those treats you give yourself occasionally. The medical marvel that he is, I do think that his ideologies can be quite strict, and with me gone, someone must eat all that rubbish in the pantry.
To happiness, freedom, and life – which I pray you have an abundance of; only I and the Gods know that you deserve it all and more.
Your most affectionate companion,
Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff
Title: From "The spiders...haunters in the dark...have come to feast", submitted quote from chat by Supermidnightfunclub
Display Cover image: Shelob by Apelure (DeviantArt Link: https://www.deviantart.com/apelure)