Chapter Seventy-Five

October 20, 2012


7th of Harvestmonth


We head to the tavern, called The Watering Hole, and feel an air of palpable tension amongst the locals gathered there.  The proprietor seems surprised to see a party of our size, but quickly recovers and gives us four rooms.  Ulric explains that we need the rooms for the week, but that we may not be in them each night.  We settle into our rooms, then return to the common room for the evening meal.  There is a bard there who is passable at best, singing and making bad jokes. 

A rough-looking gnome walks in with a bow on his back.  He walks directly to our table.  I notice two other fighter-types walk in and split up to opposite sides of the room a few seconds after the gnome comes in.  He looks at Ulric, then Finn, then back to Ulric, “Which one of you sirs is in charge here?”

“I am,” Ulric answers.

“I am Lerrius, the head warden here.  I protect this town.  May I ask what brings you here?”

“We come for the feathered serpent.”

“Well, the statue is gone.  Are you actually trying to speak to the feathered serpent?”

“Apparently,” Ulric replies, “our business has led us here.  We’re also looking for a guide to take us to the temple in the woods.”

“I can arrange for that,” he says.  He goes on to tell us that they’ve had some trouble in the town recently, and that there have been dead rising to attack.  “You don’t have any clerics with you, do you?”

Ulric glances at Briggette, “No, not any clerics, per se.”

Lerrius looks at me with an evil leer.  “Or any necromancers?”

I laugh heartily, “I would never mess with such . . . dark things.”

“Right,” he somehow doesn’t seem to believe me.  The more he speaks, the more I come to realize that his voice is quite deep, disconcertingly so for a gnome.  He questions whether, since we are knights, we are here to cause trouble or settle vengeance matters.  We assure him we are not, and he agrees to lead us to the temple in the woods on the morrow.  He takes his leave of us, and we enjoy our delicious potato soup in peace before retiring to our rooms for the evening.

That next morning, we head to the warden house.  It is a fortified house in the center of town with its own small walls.  It is generally off-limits to the public, though anyone can come and ask for help at any time.  A young knight greets us and offers the services of a boy who will direct us to the temple.  The boy’s name is Linus.

He leads us through the woods on foot, as the brush is thick and not hospitable for horses.  After about twenty minutes, we pop out onto a small trail.  He tells us that an old priestess went off to “get something to save the town” a few weeks ago, but that no one has heard anything about her since.  About half a mile down the trail, Linus suddenly comes to a complete stop.  “Oh, shit!”

Two massive bears are standing in our path eating some berries.  One of them hears us and charges.  Ulric moves the boy behind him, and I shadow jump into a nearby tree to gain a clear shot on the beast.  As the other bear also charges, the rest of our group makes their way to surround the area, and shortly the first bear drops.  Not long after, the second bear falls, as well.  During the fight, both Ulric and I took two arrows in the side, but none of us can see anyone in the woods, and the attacks cease once the bears are dead.

We keep moving, and come to a very large and very ancient temple in the woods.  One of the heavy wooden doors is pitoned shut, while the other is wedged open at just enough space for a human to fit through quickly.  Ulric pushes it open, and a part of the ceiling collapses on him, but he is not seriously hurt.  We continue forward to find two men standing guard a few feet inside.

“Halt!” one of them says.  “Who is it that wishes to speak to the great and magnificent Tlanextic?”

“I am Countess Sir Briggette Bellyn von Zurwald Heltragen of the House of the Beautiful Serpent.”

“Um, could you repeat that?”  she obliges, and he says, “Oh, okay.  Um, wait here a minute.”  He leaves us with his companion and enters what appears to be the main chamber.  After about a minute, his friend tells us to go in.  He explains that their orders are to announce visitors, and since his friend has not returned, he assumes we are okay to go in.

About that time, the first guard returns and asks who of our party is actually nobility.  He looks pained to try to remember all the names, but asks us to wait another moment.  He returns a few minutes later and, somewhat defeatedly, says, “Um, okay, y’all can go in.”

We enter another small chamber with a large door.  This large door leads to a large room with a massive central altar.  The scent of flowers fills the air from the masses of flowers covering the thirty foot high altar, which is stepped like a ziggurat.  Atop the altar sits a large serpent with particularly dazzling feathers.  It begins to lift its body up and Briggette notices that it doesn’t appear to have any wings.  Of to the right, a statue of a cuoatl lies on the floor.  “Hello, Countessssss,” it hisses out at her.

“Hello, non-cuoatl.”

“What dosssst thou mean?”

“Well, I don’t have a name for you.  What else shall I call you?” she retorts.

Ulric feels a rapier tap him on the shoulder, and turns to see that Boian’s tattoo is glowing brightly through his sleeve.  He resists the urge to charge the beast.

“What dossst thou want, Countesssss?”

“I came to pay homage to the keeper of this small town, but it sounds like there’s a real problem here with the dead rising from their graves, and I have offered my services.”

“The magic is weak and musssst be renewed.  Do you know magic, Countessss?”

“I know many things,” Briggette replies.

About this time, I hear movement from outside of doorways near the back of the room.  I make my way to Boian, and, in Cuthbertine, I tell him what I’ve heard.  “You take anything to the left, I’ll take the right,” he says.

“I just know I was asked to come and handle the situation,” Briggette tells him.

“Assssked by whom?”

“By the cuoatl that appeared in my room.  And since I am of the House of the Beautiful Serpent, I felt it was my duty.”

The creature subtly shifts and turns toward Ulric, “You must be tired from your long journey.  You should be rewarded for coming.  Why don’t you go and choose something from my treasure?”

Ulric cocks an eyebrow, “Um, no, I don’t think so.” 

About that time, eight gargoyles pour through the left doorway and a strange dragonish creature with ten legs comes in from the right.  I fire, instantly killing one of the gargoyles, and Ulric charges the dragon thing.  Briggette makes for the snake, but has some slight difficulty with the steps of the ziggurat.  Korvinean fires at the snake, and Arany transforms to his full dragon self.  Suddenly, black tentacles sprout from the ground and start to attack some of us.  I manage to escape, as does the rest of the party.  The gargoyles have closed with us, and we are still thinning their numbers.  The snake begins to blur, making it difficult to hit. 

The large blue multi-legged dragon beast breathes in and exhales lightning bolts toward Ulric.  Meanwhile, Arany steps up next to the ziggurat and breathes out a gout of flame on the top of the structure.  Boian goes running for the snake, and in a stunning display of acrobatics, he jumps and flips his way to the top and stabs the beast through the skull.  It drops.

Meanwhile, Ulric is still fighting the blue beast, and takes another strong hit from its electrified breath weapon.  Briggette, seeing his danger, leaps off the step of the ziggurat and beheads it.  Now that all our enemies are slain, Briggette ascends the ziggurat and cuts the heart from the creature as she was instructed by the apparition in her room.  We build a fire to burn the heart, and when we throw it on, the smoke comes up and forms a map of the Isle of Delrith.  There are small shapes in the ocean to the east.  Down to the south of the island chain, an “X” forms over the open ocean.  I commit its location to memory.