Chapter Thirteen

May 14, 2011


            They give us each our own room in a couple of places in the city.  They have stockpiled plenty of wood, and have several people helping us.  Many of us enjoy their hospitality and partake of a nice hot bath and a comfortable bed.
            The next morning, we gather up, and on the advice of our hosts, we decide to walk rather than take the horses.  We set out on a very small trail heading toward the mountain.  We are forced to move slowly, but eventually come to a roadside shrine with a large statue of an old man.  Brianna recognizes him as a grey elf of her order who had come to the area more than 200 years ago to spread the good word.  The old man who is guiding us pulls out a large stick of incense.  He kneels and lights it, paying homage.  We notice a large empty space behind the statue, and as I begin to step back to look at it, the old man stops me and says, “It’s disrespectful to walk behind him, to travel outside of his eyes.”  I allow for custom, and return to the road.
            After about an hour and a half, we come to the temple.  It has large doors, thirty feet wide, covered in silver and carved with forest scenes.  They are closed tightly.  The walls are roughly twenty feet high.
            “Now remember, we’re not to harm the elves,” says Ulric.  He looks for a knocker or a bell, and, not finding one, he pushes on the door.  Though the door is heavy, it gives easily and pushes in. 
            “I will wait in the brush; my days of fighting are over,” the old man says.
            “Very well,” Ulric replies, and turns back to the doorway.  It opens into a courtyard that is beginning to be overgrown by weeds.  There is a large pool in the center, and four wooden sheds on the west wall, and four more on the east wall.  In the southern corners, there are two small octagonal buildings, each covered with a dome.
            We begin by checking the pool in the center of the courtyard.  It is forty feet long and thirty feet long, with a three foot wall around the edges.  The water is brackish and smells putrid.  As Briggette tosses in a rock, Brianna simply touches the surface.  She pulls her hand out and sniffs it, finding that it is only fetid water, not the source of the blood as she had suspected.  Behind her, the water begins to coalesce into a large snake-like thing.  It is about 10 feet tall, and appears to be made from the nasty water.
            Brianna attacks immediately with her halberd, and though the blade glides through, it doesn’t appear to be damaged.  I swing and miss, then Ulric does the same.  Finn swings his guisarme. The creature reaches out, grabs Brianna and pulls her into the water.  He ducks beneath the surface and takes her with him.  A second later, before any of us can react, Brianna has broken free of the creature and breaks the surface.  Ulric jumps in after her, and the creature comes back up from the water.  I fire, and my bolt goes directly through it.  Finn swings again, and once again slices through just as the beast slams itself forward onto Brianna—ignoring the knight in armor beside her.  Briggette swings over the retaining wall, but it dodges her blow.  Korvinean swings at it, but rather than slice, he smacks it with the flat of his blade.  The creature is pulling Brianna under once again, but she is able to break free and swim to the surface.  Once again, I fire and Ulric swings his sword.  Korvinean begins to work on the retaining wall, trying to break the stone so it will burst and spill the water out.  Finn swings once more, just as the creature slams into Brianna again.  She begins to swim toward a jar she noticed earlier under the water.  She tries to open it, but it is sealed, so she hits it.  The jar breaks open and coins fall everywhere.  She gathers as much as she can, then breaks to swim for the surface.  I fire again at the creature, and Ulric swings.  He slashes into its body, and it dissipates and falls back into the water.  Before she gets out of the water, she swims back to the other jar, and breaks it open as well.  It also contains large quantities of coins.
            She gets out of the water, as does Ulric and dries off.  We then set about checking the sheds on the walls.  The walls are made of woven thatch.  Ulric opens the door to the first, and finds a plain dirt floor, but there is nothing else in the shed.  The second is also empty.  The third contains a mass of cloth on the back corner.  They turn out to be two sacks filled with copper coinage, all from a newer vintage.  The sacks are decorated with two panthers facing each other.  None of the other sheds contain anything.  Next, we make our way to the octagonal structure in the southeast corner.
            This room is thirty feet in diameter with a 2 foot high platform on the back of the room.  There is a fifteen foot tall statue of a strong man with a long beard sitting on the platform, and stairs leading down on both sides of the platform.  We go to the stairwell on the right, and I search for traps.  When I find nothing, Ulric leads the way down.
            At the bottom of the stairs, we find hallways leading off to the east and south.  We continue along the south hallway, stopping at the first door and checking inside.  We find a cot of woven reeds and a pile of stones.  I search through the stones, which are very smooth and warm.  Perhaps they are some sort of worship aid.  The next room is a mirror of the first, as is the third.  The hallway then turns gradually to the east, and has more doors.  The first cell has a woven cot as well, but also has a chest underneath.  I find a trap on it, disable the trap, pick the lock and open the chest.  We find some coins, some stones and a bottle and a half of wine.  We continue to the next two rooms on the right, which are outfitted similarly to the first few.
            There is another hallway which leads off to the south, so, following right-hand rule, we turn that way.  About ten feet in, there is a large heavy door.  When we open it, we see a hallway running east and west for thirty feet in each direction.  It appears to be a dead end on either side, and there is another door directly in front of us.  There is a robed figure standing one each side of the next door, each holding a falchion.
            “Hail!” Ulric greets them.
            In reply, the men close on Ulric.  Ulric swings, but pulls his punch, subduing his attacker.  Brianna pushes past me and Briggette and swiftly knocks out the second man.  We take their rope belts from their robes to bind them, and we discover that they are wearing bronze chainmail underneath the robes.  Korvinean hogties them together, and we move forward to the door.  I check each end of the hallway for secret doors, but find nothing.
            Once again, we find ourselves in a hallway that is 10 feet wide running east to west seventy feet in each direction.  We continue down the hallway to the right, now heading west.  Korvinean hears a slurping sound coming from behind him, and turns to see a huge, transparent moving cube five feet behind him.  He backs up down the hall, and I fire into the cube.  Briggette strikes it with a club, then Brianna punches it.  We see the ripples from her strike run through the cube, and she drops to the ground.  The cube moves forward and engulfs the unconscious Brianna.  Briggette attacks, but the cube engulfs her once again.  I step back and fire again.  Korvinean fires two flaming arrows at the blob, and it melts and falls to the floor.  Ulric pulls the sisters from underneath its remains, and we clean everyone up.
            Fifteen feet from the end of this hallway, there is a short offshoot hallway to the right.  I go to the end and check it for doors and traps, then turn back to the end of the previous hallway.  Neither has any opening, so we continue down the hallway to the south.  At the halfway point, there is a short, ten foot hallway with a door in the end, but we continue toward the end of the hallway.  This area also terminates in a T with two apparent dead-end offshoots.  When I continue into the offshoot to the south, I appear to blink out of existence.
            “No!” Ulric screams and runs in after me, followed closely by Finn.
            Briggette rolls her eyes, sighs, and follows, along with Korvinean and finally Brianna.  We cannot go back the way we came, so we start out of the hallway.  It appears to be an offshoot similar to those we’ve seen before, and we head out and turn right.  After much frustration, marking, and teleporting, we realize we are in a large set of hallways that encircle a central area.  We enter that area, and find a large natural cavern with a 10 foot diameter compass rose inscribed in the floor.  There is a platform along the south side of the room rising five feet from the floor.  Near the front of it, there is an altar where a man stands in black robes.  Behind him is a large statue of the same bearded man we saw upstairs.
            “Sir, explain your intentions!” Ulric yells.
            The man raises his arms and blue smoke fills the area around him.  Ulric charges, but when he reaches the platform, the man is gone.  “Seal the doors!” Ulric shouts.  I climb onto the platform and begin to search the altar.
            Suddenly, a large cracking sound comes from behind me.  I turn and shoot as the statue starts to stand and the stone flake away.  Underneath, we see no flesh, only bones.