Chapter One Hundred Four

August 17, 2013


4th of Woodmonth


            When Silas returns, we talk about our strategy to fight the dragon.  We decide to rest another night in the giant village, and then continue up the mountain.  After about an hour and a half ascent, we come to a ledge with the opening of a cave.  As we approach, we notice that the snow comes into the entrance about 25 feet, and the walls are covered in ice so thick you can’t see any stone.  As we move into the cave, we spread out a bit.

            Around 50 feet in, there is a person trapped in the ice, stuck in a posture of incredible fear and sudden surprise.  The cave narrows to around ten feet wide, and I go through first.  The others are left in shock; to them I just disappeared.  I keep moving, not understanding anything is wrong.  Ulric steps through behind me and turns around, but he can no longer see the rest of the party.  Briggette follows, and I go back to the threshold of that area and stick my head out.  Finn is standing at the ready to attack, but puts his weapon at rest and comes through the illusion with me, as does everyone else.

            The passage narrows to a ten foot wide hallway which turns at a sharp wide angle, then again at another sharp right angle twenty feet further on.  I am able to tell that this is not a natural occurrence, but is man-made.  As I round the final corner, the cave opens up into a large cavern with two ten-foot tall statues at the far end.  One carries a giant mace, and the other wields a sword.  I go to inspect the statues and find nothing unusual other than some magical runes carved into the feed of each one.  I have Silas take a look, and he says they are just gibberish.  He says there is no pattern to the words, no sentence structure, no method to the madness.

            I ask him to step back, and I check the area between them.  As I step there, a giant mouth appears.  In a loud, but not yelling voice, it says, “Who are you?”

            “I am me.  Who’s asking?” I reply.

            The mouth suddenly disappears, and the two statues turn to attack me.  Both of them hit, and I reel from the hit before tumbling away.  Ulric interposes to help mitigate the damage as the giant statue hits me again.  Brianna and Briggette gang up on the other statue, and Ulric strikes at the first.  Arany joins the sisters, and Silas casts Magic Missile.  Boian charges acrobatically through the field, and attacks the first one as well.  Finn rolls in and slices at the first, and when it falls, he then spins around to cleave into the one that hit me. 

            Brianna turns and takes a quick step in and slams into the one in front of me with three amazing blows.  I take the opportunity to jump away toward the mouth of the cave and hide.  Ulric, Briggette and Arany all turn to attack this remaining foe, and in short order he is down.

            I come out from hiding and limp back to my friends.  Briggette uses a wand to heal me and all the other folks who were hurt.  We continue into another corridor at the back of the cave, and come to a portcullis.  I find a trap on it, but I am able to disable it.  I cannot, however, lift the gate, so Arany and Finn do it for me.  They are only able to lift it around three feet, so Ulric rolls under and kips up, ready for action.  I saunter under, and the rest of the group makes their way under as well.  About ten feet further on, there is an open pit in the walkway.  Silas uses Wall of Force to make an invisible walkway for us to cross over.  As soon as we cross the far edge of the pit, we seem to disappear to the people behind us as we walk through an illusion similar to the one at the beginning.

            The hallway opens up into an incredibly large chamber with piles of broken carts, wagons, sedan chairs and random other things around the room.  On the far side, there is a pile of gold, jewels, weapons and more.  We move into the room and fan out.  I notice something odd about the ceiling of the cavern, but I can’t quite make it out.

            Suddenly, we hear a voice in the air, “Who comes into my lair?”

            “I am Count Ulric von Zurwald Heltragen, Knight of the Realm, Champion of Grozney,” he says as he moves into the center of the room.

            “Hmmm, knights tend to be tasty,” the voice replies.

            “You’re welcome to try to find out,” Ulric says haughtily.

            “And what brings you to my lair?”

            “I have come to slay you.  Now, show yourself and find out if I’m tasty.”  I notice a slight shifting on the ceiling.

            “Which one of you is the dragon?”  No one answers, and I notice Arany has not yet entered the room.

            “Champion of Grozney.  I have done nothing in Grozney; why are you here?”

            “I am a knight of the realm.  I come to stamp out evil wherever it may be.  I come for the liberation of the spine, and for the dwarves who are my friends.  I have killed your frost giants and your children.”

            “The frost giants’ Jarl was a fool.  But I cannot surrender my land.”

            “Then come,” Ulric taunts, “defend your money, defend your land.”  He readies his sword.  “For Delrith, and for Cuthbert!”

            “Very well, then,” the dragon replies, “no quarter will be asked.”

            “None will be given.”

            “Heltragen?  Is that your name?”

            “New name.  I was a Zurwald.”

            “Ah, yes, Zurwald.  I know this name.  Very brave.  It has been a long time since I have seen a Zurwald.”  She seems unconcerned with any threat we might pose, as well as completely unhurried.  “I will make this deal with you:  if you fall, I will send your sword to your son.”

            “And if you fall?”

            “I only ask that you not butcher me.”

            “Fair enough,” Ulric replies.

            “Well, then.  Would you like a moment to make peace with your god?”

            “That’s okay,” Ulric replies.  “If I don’t succeed, I’ll see him soon enough.”

            The entire ceiling seems to begin to move, and a huge white dragon swoops down to the center of the room.  We all converge on her, and a furious battle erupts.  Ulric, Briggette, and Brianna all charge, each dealing significant damage.  Arany flies in to attack and bites at the bitch’s neck.  Finn’s gruisarme is humming its melodic vengeance as he swings it around in a wide arc and slices into her.  Silas stays back and casts something, but we see no immediate visible effect. 

            The dragon swipes at us with claw, wing, and tail, dealing some damage to Ulric, Briggette, Briana, Boian and me.  I hit her with Frostfang, and Arany steps up to her and breathes.  Ulric runs up Arany’s tail and back, leaps, and lands on the dragon.  He stabs into her back, and holds on as she writhes around.  Briggette strikes again, slicing into her neck, and frigid blue blood sprays from the opened artery.  She falls, and Ulric makes a daring leap to the side to avoid being injured. 

            We search the area and come up with large amounts of loot.  We load up the bag of holding and give it to Silas who has agreed to teleport it back home and join us back here tomorrow.

            We rest in the cave overnight, then head back down the mountain.  It takes a day to travel back to where the road diverged, and we continue toward the main area of the spine.  On the third day, we see a wooden tower ahead.  On a second glance, it appears to be occupied by hobgoblins.

            In their horrible language, we hear, “Hail.”

            I reply, “Hail.”

            From behind the tower, we see three horsemen in breastplates with rust red livery and big blue noses.  One of them rides up to Ulric, “Human?”  In response, Ulric lifts his visor.  The hobgoblin points at Ulric, then at Briggette, “Which in charge?”

            “I am,” Ulric answers.

            “You want to pass through?”

            “We are on the way to the capital,” Ulric answers.

            “Capital is death,” the hobgoblin replies.

            “They said that about the white dragon, too.”  Ulric’s response is simple, not boasting.  “And the jarl of the frost giants, but that didn’t stop me.” 

            The beast looks suitably impressed and asks Ulric, “You are a knight?”

            “I am.”

            He wrinkles his face, “I am a knight of my people.”

            “I salute you, Sir knight.”

            “You come in peace?”  He appoints four men to lead us through the area.  “You go to the capital, you risk many dangers on the way.”  He tells us that the capital is death, and that in the capital, death is a person.

            We travel most of that day, and the guides steer us clear of most dangers.  Near dusk, one of the creatures tells us that we are near the edge of their lands, and they offer to stay with us as we make camp for the night.

            He tells us that the main road continues for several miles, and that there is a fork.  If we take the right and continue ahead, another mile up reveals an area he refers to as death.  The next area seems to be orc lands, but we soldier on anyway.  That evening, we hole up in an abandoned building, then continue the next day.

            Shortly, we see up ahead an abandoned keep.  For the last mile, the land is barren, no trees, moss, animals or even beetles.  There is an overwhelming sense of foreboding in the air.  We approach with caution, and once inside, we are faced with a gargantuan minotaur zombie.  After a hard fought battle, we finally defeat it. 

            We go on to the door behind where we fought the zombie.  We open the door to the keep, and Ulric immediately feels a hand on his ankle.  A tiny voice whispers in his ear, “Why are you here?”

            “I come to cleanse the world of evil, in the name of Delrith, the king and Cuthbert, the lawbringer,” Ulric answers.  Nothing else happens, so we move through into the next room, and find piles of bolts and crossbows in front of a barricade.  As we move into the room, we hear what sounds like children laughing.  I hear something that sounds like a baby crying.  We move through the room toward the far door.  Briggette hears a loud crying for help from several children, but no one else seems to hear it.  “Something terrible happened in this place,” Ulric says.

            We get through the next door, and find a smaller room.  Inside, I see a small girl, perhaps three years old, playing with a doll.  I think she’s an illusion, but even when I concentrate, she remains there.  After a moment, half of her face seems to melt off, and run down to the floor, leaving a gleaming white skull exposed beneath.  In one corner of the room, there are large metal gears that have an inch of dust on them.  They appear to be intact, but we move on.  The other door in this room is locked, but there seems to be something jammed in the lock.  Ulric kicks it in.

            It opens into a hallway about ten feet wide with obvious murder holes in the ceiling.  As Ulric walks through, something falls from one of the holes, and hits his shield, falling to the floor and scurrying toward Briggette.  It climbs up her, and starts to gnaw at the edges of her visor.  She takes it in her gauntlet and throws it to the ground before stepping on it and ending its miserable life.  It turns out it was a zombie rat.

            At the end of the hallway, there is another door with a magical trap.  I think I disable it, but when Ulric walks through, there is a small burst of light.  I ask if he’s okay, and he says he doesn’t want to talk about it, but the light seemed to be a healing light rather than anything of harm.  Inside this room, there are more enormous gears and a body on the floor.  Ulric asks, “Do you all see the body?”  We do, and so we investigate him.

            He is wearing full plate mail, and is surrounded by bone dust.  He is wearing a rainbow surcoat with markings of Heimdahl, and he still clutches a holy symbol in one hand.  A scroll case is at his hip.  It contains a letter addressed to King Delrith detailing the events which may have led to the fall of this keep.  It explains that there is a great treasure placed in “the most ironic place” he could think of to keep it from the forces of death.  Ulric carefully removes his armor and places the disarticulated bones in some of the silk from the bag of holding.  We pack these precious relics into the bags of holding.

            As we complete this sad task, the temperature in the room drops ten degrees instantly.  Boian, Silas, Korvinean and I pass out instantly.  Those standing see a smoky black shape coalesce in front of them.  Hundreds of tiny whispers are heard all around them, “Who are you?”

            Briggette answers, “Who are you?”

            “The fallen.”

            “The fallen of who?” Briggette asks.

            Instead of an answer, the voices answer, “Are you relief?”


            The chorus of whispers answers, “Too late.”  Suddenly, there is a thunderous screaming of women and children seeming to come from above.

            They manage to wake those of us who fell, and we turn back, as there are no other doors from this room.  As we enter the main room, Korvinean notices a secret door in the stone.  When it is opened, the room is filled with a magical blackness.  Silas casts Daylight and the darkness evaporates away.

            The room appears to be a sort of dining hall, but the tables are all upturned and scattered.  There is evidence of an epic battle, including a table that has been cleaved in twain, but no bodies or bones are anywhere to be seen.  Briggette tells us that the necromancer who did this would have likely animated every defender of this place, but could not have done so with the paladin.

            We go to the only other door of this room, and on opening it, find a spiral staircase leading upward.  We follow the stairs and come on a landing about fifteen feet up with a door lying on the ground by its doorframe.  It opens into a hallway.  A few feet down, there is a door on the right hand side.  As I inspect it for traps, I see blood oozing down the door.  Ulric, growing impatient with my hesitancy, kicks the door in.  Immediately, a black form drops down on top of him.

            After a few moments, we have defeated it, and we see that there are spears buried in the walls, and smeared blood running down from the walls under these spearpoints.