Lights in the Darkness

Hanael's Winter at the Taygle

Hanael pushed through the snowdrift, Osric only a couple yards ahead of him. They still had to visit two homesteads before the sun sets and the weather was getting worse but Hanael knew that that this was not something that concerned Osric in any way. He has to admit though that this stubbornness and sense of duty was one of his more inspiring aspects.
The young Axiomar is very impressed how Osric works hard and unrelenting when it comes to missionary work, visiting all these families, reading from his book and giving the Makers blessings. He just wished Osric would base his lovingness on alturism and not on conscientiousness. He doesnt think that this is based in the suspicion that some folks might still revere this hideous frog demon, (Though that probably plays a part in it as well!) but that the Maker probably just decided to fill his heart with so much fervor that there was barely any space left for compassion.

The winter month in Taygles End are long and rather unpleasant but with all the missionary work Hanael had to do on command of Osric at least made the days pass quickly. He especially treasures the times where he was sent out alone so Osric could return to the monastery or study for prayer and contemplation. He noticed that the people here react quite differently to the Makers words when Osric is not around. Maybe its the stern voice that Osric always uses when speaking about the Maker, maybe its because he always comes back to the dangers of cults and witchery in his sermons or maybe its because he and the Tarchoony Brotherhood slew many fellow citizens who were under the spell of the fell frog idol. Hanael definitely wants to make sure that the habitants of this dreary town also hear something uplifting and encouraging for once, they sure need it. So far he feels that he does his job quite well and many are quite eager to hear his allegories.
Just sometimes he wished that he could find some time to talk to Zealik more, Hanael was sure that the older Axiomar must have some very exciting tales of strife and heroism to tell. After all these weeks in this frozen fisher village he really wants to test his skills against the beasts of the swamp once more, even getting back at training recruits would be a welcome change from all the evangelistic activity.

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Stithwulf: The Cultists' Dungeon

I grew up in the Mornlands. Father was a trader, and we spent a fair piece of my childhood traveling up and down the River Hellfor. We always stayed away from the Great Marsh though, and we never plied the Morn Sound or the seas beyond. Father always said the Marsh was cursed. Something about a Sunken City, and ancient heresy. Maker knows, I should’ve listened, and stayed away from the Marsh.

After Father died, I made my way as I could. As it turned out, I was a fair hand with a blade and a bow, and I inherited some of Father’s talent for negotiating. I made my way, first as a mercenary, then as an adventurer, for some time. I took a job here, followed a lead there. The whole time though—my whole life, really—I watched darkness creep ever more into the Mornlands. Into my home. I finally decided to do something about it. I was in a tavern when a well-armed man walked in and started looking for “Brave souls, with strong arms and stout hearts!” Hah. I recognized another money-hungry adventurer when I saw him. I didn’t begrudge him his sales pitch, but I didn’t pay it much mind either. That is, until I heard him mention the Sunken City. My ears perked up; I listened a while more, and eventually struck up a conversation with him. Not too long after that, I was signed onto Red’s Raiders, and on a barge headed down the River Hellfor.

We all went—more the fools, us—and used the standing stone in the middle of town. The good news was, we survived the standing stone, and found ourselves where we thought we wanted to be: in the Sunken City. The bad news was, we couldn’t find our way back. After more twists and turns than I can count or remember, we found our way out from underground, only to see we were on an island somewhere in the middle of a swamp—probably the Great Marsh, but we couldn’t be certain. Eventually, another party, larger than our own, landed on the island. After a brief parley, we agreed to work together: We would support each other, split the loot and hopefully a few heretic skulls, and head back to civilization, such as it is, together. They had boats, and said they had enough room to transport us all back. We set camp for the night, preparing to delve back into the ruins in the morning.

Morning never came for most of us. The other party turned out to be occultists of some kind, operating out of a cave complex within the swamp. They killed everyone save Aart and me while our party slept. Only keen hearing and a quick tongue let me wake up and convince them we cared more about money than the Maker, leading them to spare us. The Maker will forgive us this transgression, I am sure… as long as we extract a blood price from the apostates for it.

At any event, the occultists believed my show, and let Aart and me live and work among them for a week or two. Eventually though, my devotion to the Maker could not be hidden, and they stripped me of my belongings, bound me, and imprisoned me somewhere in a cave complex. Aart, Maker bless his black heart, stayed loyal to me, and suffered the same fate. They set the living dead to watch us, rotting corpses with eyeless sight, while the living taunted us. I expected we were bound for torture and execution, if not worse, until one of the cultists ran into the room with a message. “Adventurers have landed on our island” he said, or something like that. The apparent leader was pleased. He used chalk to draw Aart and me into a rough square in the corner of the room, set the dead outside the square, and instructed them to kill us if we left it. He then left, taking the remaining cultists from the room with him. I think I heard others running as well, leaving the cave complex with them, but I cannot be certain.

We waited. What else could we do? There were six of the dead, only two of us, and us without our arms or armor. They left us to wait in the dark, but I know the dead kept their watch; they did not stir around us. Eventually, about an hour after they left, maybe less, the some of the cultists returned. A handful came back to the room where we were held, and brought blessed light with them. A dark cave with the dead is no place for the living. I noticed, though, that I didn’t hear nearly as many returning as I thought left. Perhaps the adventuring party triumphed against the cult? Perhaps the other cultists are outside, looting the corpses of the adventurers? Or perhaps the caves are playing tricks on my ears, and my sense of those going and coming is simply wrong? Only time will tell.

Now, if only I could reach my arms and armor…

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 14
Elevators & Chrystals

Zephyros cringed as if he felt the burning from the trapped door once again, “I won’t be anywhere near that door if we intend on opening it. Dudda can don the chain which will keep him safe should the gas trap go off once more.”

Dudda smiled, “Thanks Boss! It will be a piece of cake.” Much of the Tarchoony Brotherhood remained upstairs, but a few followed Dudda by a safe distance into the room where they had routed the evil adventuring band. After ensuring the light source was positioned correctly so that he could see into the maw of the face within the door, Dudda went to work. After several moments Dudda said, “Almost got it, no wait!” Dudda exclaimed, soon after a loud click followed by the hiss of escaping gas could be heard. “Hah, close call,” he muttered, “Thanks for letting me borrow the necklace Zephyros or I’d end up looking just like you! Hold up until this gas clears, but the mechanism is disabled and the door is unlocked.” After several moments the company eventually got the courage to descend the staircase.

“You’re welcome Dudda,” Zephyros replied as he took the necklace off his neck. “Let’s form up and see what we can find down the passageway.” The company assembled into their marching order and moved through the threshold.

Soon the vanguard of The Brotherhood found themselves in a square room that had four large crystals the rose up from the floor. As they moved to the crystals they portrayed what appeared to be scenes from various places and times. Initially, they were vibrant and full of life, showing prospering times of what could only be Tarchoony. Then without warning the room started to drop downward and the scenes changed. The once beautiful scenes became dark, ruinous and corrupted, leaving little down in Zephyros’ mind that this was the fall of the Tarchoony Empire. A new door emerged as the elevator room stopped and the company made their way through this new doorway. Soon after they found themselves in a room with a vast amount of stores, “Look at all this stuff!” Osric exclaimed, “Enough to feed an army.”

“Indeed,” replied Zelik, “We’ll put these supplies to good use, assuming our boats can handle the load.”

After reviewing the contents the party agreed to keep moving onward and came upon a room that opened up to what could only be the well shaft from above. The chain was hanging down from the darkness, with what appeared to be a cauldron nearby. A soft purple glow was coming from something deep in the pool, but the movement in the water from the waterfall that could be heard in the back prevented a clear view. “What do you think is the source of the light?” Osric said out loud.

“I don’t get a good feeling about this place,” said Zelik as he began concentrating. “It stinks of evil.”

“I get the feeling no one else is in the mood for a swim,” Stithwulf muttered as he started peeling off layers of cloths. “I’ll go take a look.” Within a few moments he was in the water and swam toward the light source. “It looks like a giant crystal! Maybe we could tie something around it and haul it up?”

After dealing with other pits of evil the rest of the party thought better of that and the party encouraged Stithwulf to return to shore. “There is too much to explore here in human form, the lack of light, height of this cavern and vastness of water are limiting our senses,” explained Zephyros as he began casting a spell. Within seconds his form became that of a bat and he disappeared into the darkness. What the party didn’t see was Zephyros survey the entire cave using echolocation. He detected an opening above the waterfall, so he flew there and once above the falls he noticed the cave collapsed to only a tiny room with a rock fall blocking the way to the water source. He shape shifted into that of an octopus and plopped into the water hugging the bottom to ensure he wasn’t swept down the waterfall by the strong current. He spent minutes there checking under rocks until he came across a skeletal form. He searched it with his eight arms and discovered what could only be described as a small dry bag with contents unknown. He held tightly onto it as he let the current sweep him over the falls. Once down he swam back to the shore and handed the bag to his companions.

He then shape shifted back into a bat and few upwards through well shaft and discovered the platform that they had discovered from the back of the room where they had encountered the rival gang. However, what was not apparent from that side of the platform was that there was another platform on the other side with another door. To reach this however the company would need to travel back up and find a way to get everyone across safely. With this information Zephyros flew back down and rejoined the company.

“Well men, the adventure continues. I found another door above us. It looks like it is from the room that has the trap door and fungus; you know where we came out onto that platform with the chain. We’ll on the other side of that there is another platform and a double door.” Zephyros explained.

“Great find, but how do we get there?” Asked Osric. Zephyros shrugged.

“We’ll figure something out,” Zephyros replied. “Maybe Stithwulf has an idea; he seems to be a crafty fellow.”

“What was in the dry-bag?” Asked Zephyros.

“A couple of maps, we can study them when we get back to civilization,” replied Osric. “Here take them, you found them.”

“Aye!” replied Zephyros as he stashed the dry-bag with maps into his magical pouch for safe keeping.

“Let’s move out then,” Zelik stated, as he motioned to the company to follow him.

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Back to the Menhir
Session 57 to 58

Pained moans could still be heard throughout the camp when Osric was done organizing the guard for the next few hours. The ambush left many wounded and a few dead but they managed to repel the attackers and chase them back into their hiding hole.
The group went after the assailants who fled into the Menhir dungeon and Osric stayed back to protect the camp and organize the defense with his remaining mercenaries. Once the guard detail was taken care of Osric found some time to pen a few more lines into his journal:
“We didn’t waste much time after defeating Red Wincing and prepared the next expedition into the Sunken City after most of our men recovered. After a short trip to Froxhall we headed straight towards the island where we found the Menhir dungeon but after a few hours we encountered an Apparition. This ghostly form was barely visible between some ruins but even just getting a glimpse of it was enough to put an unnatural fear into some of our men who jumped overboard. We got away just in time before more were affected but sadly one of our men ultimately drowned.
The sun was already setting when we finally found the remains of our old camp where we settled once again and set up our guards but at nightfall we noticed that we didn’t have enough for these dangerous lands. Only a few shifts in we were ambushed by a large group of either well equipped opportunistic brigands with a mage or two or cultists of some sort. I lost a few of my guards and Boguslaw was burnt badly by magical fire but in the end they scattered as we forced them to retreat. Zephyros chased them back to the Menhir dungeon as he apparently learned a new trick where he can take the form of various large animals. I send Hanael with the group as they went down into the dungeon as he is obviously eager for a fight while I will make sure that no undead pester our camp like last time.

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 15
Escaping the Pit

The Tarchoony Brotherhood moved to the elevator room. “So, does anyone have any ideas on how to get this thing to go up?” asked Sithwulf. No one replied. “Well then, let’s see what we can figure out.” The company tried every combination of touching the crystals and had no luck. Sithwulf then said, “I can make out the platform to the level above. Aart can you climb up and see if you can open the door?”

“Sure,” Aart replied as he prepared himself for the vertical climb. Within a few minutes he was nearly fifty feet up as he pulled himself up onto the narrow ledge between the shaft and the door. Aart called below, ”There isn’t more than a foot of room up here and the door is held fast. We’ll need more leverage to force this door open then this space will afford us.”

“Alright then, come on down,” Sithwulf shouted back.

Moments later the party heard Aart scream, “Aaaaahhhhhh!” before he impacted the floor with a thump. The company came to his aid, but it was to no avail, the fall was fatal.

As Sithwulf attended to his dear friend Zephyros called to the others, “Let’s move all the supplies from the other room onto the elevator platform. If we do get this platform to move up, we don’t want to go through this again to get back down.” And with that about an hour was spent moving all the supplies into the chamber.

“The last of the supplies have been moved, now what should we do?” asked Ansger to Zephyros.

“Let’s rest and think about it more, but perhaps Dudda you could move up the chain to the level above us and see if you could open the door from the other side,” replied Zephyros.

“Aye Boss, whatever you need,” answered Dudda.

“But for now, let’s close the door behind us and get some rest, we’ve all had a long day,” explained Zephyros. So, watch was posted and the company all made themselves as comfortable as possible.

Hours later Dudda and a few others began to stir, preparing for the ascent. “Any specific instructions Boss?” asked Dudda.

“I’ll come along with to the chain and we’ll talk about it,” replied Zephyros. As the door was opened the elevator platform began to rise!

“Everyone, get up and ready!” yelled Zephyros. Soon everyone was scrambling to pack their gear as the platform steadily moved upwards. Once at the top the party scrambled out and moved the most valuable goods off the platform followed by the least valuable. Zephyros made a mental note that the door below and perhaps a certain amount of time appeared to be the trigger for the platform.

The rest of that day was spent hauling the spoils to the main camp. It was a long and hard day; luckily no one was hurt in the process. The rest of the company was excited to hear of the success that was had against Hel’s Furies, but at the cost of two companions put a damper on their enthusiasm. Osric, Zelik and Zephyros spent some time explaining to the men that the exploration was nearly complete and soon they would be headed back to civilization.

The following morning the vanguard headed back to the complex. “Xenocrates, we’re going to need your help on this one, will you please accompany us?” asked Zephyros.

“Of course, m’lord,” he replied. Soon the explorers found themselves back at the mid-level platform staring at the chain.

“So, what did you have in mind Zephyros?” asked Xenocrates.

“Well you know that magic rope spell that I keep reminding you is worthless, well perhaps I was wrong,” snorted Zephyros.

“Hah, well good of you to admit it,” snickered Xenocrates.

“So, what we’ll do is have the rope attach about forty or so feet up the chain. We need our feet to touch the platform on either side, but we’ll be lower than platform level when we are at the bottom of the swing point. We will attach a belaying line to those going across so we can swing them either way, back and forth. The first person will be Dudda, as he is nimble enough to jump to the other side on his own, and we’ll all be holding to the other side should he fall. This way, we can all make it across and there is no threat of falling to death,” explained Zephyros. Soon Dudda was all roped up and Xenocrates cast his spell empowering the rope to move upon his command. Once secured up high on the chain Xenocrates nodded to Dudda and he swung across to the chain, he climped a few feet up and then jumped down to the far platform like a cat.

“Made it Boss!” yelled Dudda. “I’ll go check out the door.” Soon, Zephyros, Xenocrates, and Osric were on the far side. The door looked remarkably like the door with the huge face that nearly killed Zephyros months ago.

“I’m going to stand on the ledge while you investigate this, please borrow my necklace for the task,” Zephyros said to Dudda. Moments later Dudda began searching for traps on the door.

“I don’t see any traps here Boss!” Dudda mumbled.

“Osric, are you willing to try the door,” asked Zephyros?

“Alright!” Osric replied as he moved forward and put some weight into it. “It’s held fast!”

“As I suspected, Xenocrates please knock on the door,” Zephryos stated while smiling at Xenocrates.

“As you wish m’lord,” answered Xenocrates, as me moved close to the door and began the casting of a spell. Once the incantation was complete Xenocrates stated, “The door is now open.”

The remainder of the party came across the chasm, assembled into their marching order and started down the corridor.

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