Upon meeting with Sarnau, I also encountered a trio of rather interesting individuals: A death priest of some description - I usually avoid weird cult types like this, but he seems agreeable enough; a man whose only interests appeared to be gold and “crushing bones”; and riding in Bonecrusher’s backpack, strangest of all, a semi-civilised kobold with a penchant for setting things on fire. He seems to believe that he’s a dragon, or will become one, perhaps. I’ve never seen a dragon, but I’m fairly sure they’re a bit bigger. And have better dress sense.
Aside from this first meeting, nothing much happened for the first few weeks of our journey, assisting Sarnau on his pilgrimage. The promised pay seemed reasonable, and it was an excuse to get out of Bargarsport. I had jumped on the opportunity. However, as we approached the first town, and our first stop, we were met on the road by a gang of what looked like simple miners. They said they were travelling from the larger town some distance down the road to Bargarsport, which immediately had me on edge; they bore the dirt and wear of a day’s work, and seemed ill-prepared for travel. However, they appeared to pass us in peace… until they spotted the magical sword carried by our elderly charge.
They swiftly set upon us, but were easily dispatched, though Sarnau took a heavy blow and needed healing. Lucky for him, several of our group were proficient in healing, unlike he himself. Strange for a cleric of Freya to be unable to call upon his goddess for healing, but I didn’t pry. I imagined the truth would reveal itself, or he’d warm to us eventually and come clean, though I could not hide my concern from the others - I know Freya, and she values her subjects, and he seems devout enough. I imagine this pilgrimage is an attempt by him to atone for his sins, whatever they may have been.
We arrived at the village the next day, and after meeting the locals (and frightening them, as I’ve learned is Kaascaarr’s custom), we met with Almery, the cleric of the town and a Paladin of Muir named Quinn who had arrived before us - he seemed tough, though he didn’t take to Kaascaarr immediately. Jason convinced him to join our cause, and so we were five. Six, including Sarnau.
Almery explained, as we had observed, that there were no young people living in the town; they had all left for adventure, and greener pastures. We asked how they survived, and he said “barely” - indeed there were complaints of a fox stealing chickens, and that if we could deal with it, Almery and the village would be in our debt. Sarnau insisted that he stay and commune with Freya, so we had some time to kill.
We found ourselves exploring, and came upon a light forest on the far side of the hill from the village. There, we revealed evidence of an encampment, and soon, its inhabitants revealed themselves to us. We rather swiftly dealt with them, leaving a few alive, and saw that they were miners, like those we had slain on the road, aside from one who was armed and armoured - could have been an adventurer, or a hired thug. Bonecrusher’s scythe saw to it that we had no opportunity to question him. However his companion, fearful for his life, saw fit to inform us that they had been paid to dig, and then guard, a tunnel. A tunnel which of course, we hastened to explore.
It dug into the hill, and below. Navigating our way down the slightly greased passage, we reached a room laden with effigies which were identified as resembling the symbol of the undead God, Orcus. That sent a chill down my spine. Torches lit, and voices hushed, we moved beyond the room into the corridor beyond, which arced as though a circle. Our suspicions that we would meet undead under this hill were soon confirmed as we approached a small group of rag-laden corpses, who proceeded to turn and attack us.
The zombies were defeated, but we were heavily wounded. It was agreed that we should retreat to the surface and ask Almery what he knew of the situation, and enlist his aid. However, I noticed an inscription upon a stone door similar to the entrance to the room with the tunnel. It read; “Two kisses bestowed by Ayianna’s daughter.” Immediately, I thought; we need to get in there! Ayianna, after all, is the patron of the lucky and wealthy in Bargarsport - or at least I understood it to be so. I knew little of Ayianna’s daughter, but kisses from Ayianna could only mean one thing. We shoved and forced the door for what felt like ages in the stuffy underdark, until finally it came free. Overjoyed, I gave one final push only to have my folly come crashing down on me in the form of a pile of skeletons. Needless to say, there was no treasure.
We returned to town, shaken and exhausted, and questioned the cleric. He was clueless, and I made sure he was aware of it. I regret the choice of my words, but I stand by the message. How something like this could go unnoticed for so long… it boggles my mind. Eventually, we questioned him on the church itself, and uncovered an inscription which even he had not known of in all the time he’d lived there. Of course this only fuelled my anger, but nonetheless the inscription offered insight into the situation.
Take heed, for undying iniquity rests within these walls.
Upon this site the sceptre of united faith fulfilled destiny.
The dread priest, Akruel, shall rule no longer.
We, the faiths of the world, place this stone so none shall ever forget the bloodshed.
Take heed, lest evil awaken!
After much discussion and deciding that we should continue to explore these catacombs and perhaps eradicate the undead housed there, Almery helped us to restore our health and put us up for the night in the usually-closed inn in town. Luckily there was space there for us to have separate rooms. Locked doors are a luxury I rarely do away with, when given the opportunity.
The next day, we returned to the tunnel to explore further. Our suspicion that the chamber was circular appeared to be correct, and all things pointed to there being a single, large central chamber and eight smaller outer chambers like the two we had already discovered. Zombies littered the halls, and we hastened to dispatch them whenever we met them. We also searched for further inscriptions… here I have written all eight with a note about the room’s contents - though we discovered some after certain other events.
- “Forge first in Dargath’s fires.” - Tunnel entrance
- “Two kisses bestow by Ayianna’s daughter.” - Lots of skeletons, and my dignity
- “Bathe three drops of beauty on Iseleine’s spire.” - Nothing of note
- “Then shall Arden’s midday suns pour forth like water.” - Lesser shadow creature
- “In the fifth hour of mourning, Voard’s humble tear tempers.” - EEK
- “With the sixth strike of Muir’s grindstone, virtue is proffered.” - ?
- “Seven nights burn in Ninevah’s pool-like embers.” - ?
- “In the halls of eight disciplines, perfection freely offered.” - Intelligent ghoul (killed)
We had entered through room 1, I had been embarrassed by room 2, so we first cleared the zombies in the immediate area, and then opened the door to room 8. Within was a pitiful creature, some sort of undead abomination, as Quinn and Mor’tai proclaimed, though destroying it seemed to be the only thing on their mind. I tried to stop them to get some information out of the accursed creature before it was destroyed, but their threats were too much and it lashed out, seeking to escape. I had to chase it down and with Kaascaarr’s aid - setting the creature alight - I cut it down before it could reach the tunnel leading to the surface. It still saddens me for it to have died so senselessly, but better to put an end to it than unleash undead upon the living world. What I’ve seen here so far has convinced me of this much.
I hadn’t noticed, but in the same moment, Kaascaarr had accidentally on purpose drawn another group of zombies out towards us. He had received grievous injury, but Mor’tai’s swift actions saved his life. We defeated the zombies once more, this time barely escaping with our lives. Quinn fell in the fight, but was restored. There was a body of a man wearing similar armour to the man who attacked us back on the surface, but I smelt the taint of poison, so Kaascaarr burnt the corpse rather than risk infection. I didn’t detect a trap but I still suspected that there may be one, so I advised caution. Frankly I thought by this stage that it was a miracle that none of us had died yet, in this way or any other.
Rather than risk such a fate, we retreated back to the surface, this time blocking the passage, and received further healing from Almery, who explained that he knew nothing of the war in the distant past or the chambers beneath the hill. All he could offer as knowledge was that he had found old weapons and armour all around the town, and that he collected some of these items, though he insisted that he was tired and couldn’t show us right away - his two adopted children (whose father, Ras, had apparently abandoned them and gone to Bargarsport) had explained that he sometimes spent the day walking around the farms surrounding the town. So he gave us healing and we went to the inn to rest.
Our third venture into the tunnel had an air of excitement. We had gathered information from down there, felt like we had figured out the riddle, and after killing the last group of zombies, we uncovered the last of the hidden inscriptions and began to open the rooms one by one. Room 3 was empty aside from the scattered bones and the eerie effigies left there. Room 4, much the same, though we had been attacked by some sort of shadow creature from within. As we approached room 5, a sense of dread came over me though I would not know its source until the stone was set open. The inscription seemed no more ominous than the rest, there was just… a chill, in the air.
As before, our strongest endeavoured to part the stones and once they had, there was some sort of raised throne revealed beyond, barely lit by the flickering light emitted from the oil lamp held high by the armoured Paladin of Muir leading the way, which was enough to raise an eyebrow as the other rooms thus far had no such feature. But even more disturbing was what sat upon it. A man, or a creature, with gaunt face and pale skin, penetrating eyes… It stared in silence. Eager to avoid a repeat incident, I called into the room, “Who are you?”
I spoke with a voice that cracked like the ages themselves urged it to remain in silence, “I am Fulcyst… More playthings. How delightful,” its words chilled me to the very bone. I made sure I was safely behind his more heavily armoured companions and prepared for the worst as the creature stood and took a fateful step towards us. I had half a mind to flee, but observing the bravery of my allies in the face of this fearful enemy, I stood my ground. I felt the immediate repercussions of this decision as a harsh cold ran through me, the life drained from me in an excruciating wave that, by the groans of the others, I can only assume hit all of us. But none looked as weak as I felt. The creature, Fulcyst, had barely raised a hand and already I felt as though I was on the verge of expiry.
I should have known that it would come to this… or something like it. After all, undead do not exist without someone or something much more powerful to raise them… but should we flee or bring an end to this monster’s corruption? I know my vote. Not that there’s really any time to talk about it…