Uncovering an evil long dead

Tomorrow night everyone is to meet down at the docks where a ship will be waiting to take them to the cove that will allow them to enter the Jarin fortress without being seen. While the rest of the company makes preparations for the battle Alosius decides to visit Norrin. He hopes that the wizard will enchant his blades or at least offer some sort of assistance. When he knocks on the door a young girl answers and escorts him inside. The inside appears to be a small wooden hunting lodge with a large stone hearth and packed earth floor. Norrin in sitting in a large chair by the fire with an old wolfhound sleeping by his right side. After exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes Alosius gets to the reason that he is here visiting. Norrin listens and afterwards suggests that he can do something, but Alosius will have to perform a task for him in exchange. Deep in the caves below the fortress is a large tunnel blocked by a dark iron gate. Alosius is to destroy the lock and throw open the gates. Upon further questioning it seems that they gate acts a barrier to the armies of Hades. The agreement is made and Norrin enchants both of his blades.

Meanwhile Tor gathers everyone else to discuss scouting the fortress to get an idea of the number of Turanians living inside. The plan involves sending Oeric, Ziggoth, and Sereg on horseback to the fortress. Several hours later they get close enough that Ziggoth decides to travel the rest of the way on foot. He gets close enough to see that they palisade has been recently repaired, but can see nobody guarding the wall. He would have stayed longer, but a large wolf caught his trail and was moving around the woods to his west. On the way back to the city they find a nice spot they can hide their gear while they are gone.

That night everyone decides they need to unwind a bit, so they go to the Bloody Head Tavern. Oeric hopes to enter in tonights pit fighting, but wants to see the competition first. Everyone is enjoying themselves until Alosius decides to cheat while in the gaming pit. It works well for a short time until he is discovered by the pit boss. The pit boss moves behind Alosius and announces for the bar that they have a volunteer for the night’s grand fight against the chimera. The bar goes wild and the pit boss and one of his men force march Alosius to a chair mounted on the wall near the betting tables. They shackle him into the chair and place the initial bets at 15-1 odds against Alosius.

Tor and Oeric talk to Alosius and when they find out he is being forced to “volunteer” for the fight because he got caught cheating in the gambling pit they are tempted to let him fight alone. In the end Oeric, Tor, and Joda agree to fight alongside their companion. This drops the odds on the fight to 7-1 against them, but it is the best they are going to get. As the evening moves on everyone begins to gather around the pit. Each of the contestants is paraded around clad only in their small clothes and oiled up. The crowd goes wild as they are locked into the arming room to prepare themselves for battle. Inside they manage to piece together some armor and arm themselves with familiar weapons. Sereg, Junior, and Ziggoth watch as men drag over a large iron and hemp cage top over the pit to stop anything from getting out. Meanwhile archers take up positions around the pit in case it gets through the rope.

The fighters enter the pit and the portcullis closes behind them leaving them with no way out. The portcullis on the other side opens and a wounded chimera charges out of the hallway. It spins around in a mad rage before seeing its prey, but then it turns and charges toward Alosius. While it is engaged in battle with the elf the others rush its flanks and strike at the creature. After less than a minute the battle has turned against the chimera when it takes to the sky and begins swooping down to rake and breathe at the heroes. The heroes launch every hand-thrown weapon they have at the creature to no effect. Eventually Tor lifts up Alosius and shakes him around to entice the creature down. The creature does drop down and rakes Alosius nearly to death, but it is near the ground.

Meanwhile above the pit Sereg and Ziggoth decide to help their companions by taking down a few of the archers so that they can cut the ropes free. They walk around the back of the main table where two archers and the bar’s owner is seated. They are confronted by two of the bar’s bouncers and while they appear to capitulate when the bouncers turn around to leave they attack.  In the confusion one of the bouncers is disarmed when a large flaming sphere appears on the table conjured by Junior. The archers scatter off the table giving Sereg and Ziggoth an opportunity to meld back into the crowd. Junior then redirects his conjured fire to begin burning the ropes.

Inside the pit Alosius is down and bleeding, but the others have finally cornered the beast. Maddened and blooded the chimera tears into Tor opening up his chest and spilling his guts all over the floor. Joda and Oeric finally sink their weapons deep enough into the creature’s body and kill it. They raise their hands in triumph and the crowd shower them with coins for the rousing fight. Joda picks up Alosius, while Oeric collects the coins. That night drinks flow freely with many people buying the victors drinks for the night. After collecting their winnings  everyone heads back to their rooms to rest for the night.

In the morning Alosius manages to find a dice game and loses all of his money. While the others are preparing for the upcoming battle, Alosius goes to the marketplace to replenish his funds. He manages to cut a few purses, but then feels like someone noticed him. He leaves the marketplace, but is followed by a large well-built man with a brown cloth wrapped around his eyes. Several times he tries to lose the man, but each time the man finds him without any difficulty. Eventually he rounds on the man and tells his to state his business or move along. The man says that he is a servant for Lord Pennyworth, a merchant from across the sea. His lordship requests an audience.

Alosius follows the man to a large brightly painted boat at anchor in the harbor after receiving assurances that he would be returned safely to the docks regardless of the outcome of the audience. Lord Pennyworth is a foppish man; although the hilt of the small blade he carries shows a great deal of use. He offers to make Alosius his factor in town. In exchange he will pay him a fee, to which end he pours out a leather pouch of gems, and allow him to keep twenty-percent of all negotiated deals. Alosius declines to sign the contract, so he is put back to shore at the same dock where he left – Lord Pennyworth is a man of honor it seems. However, the lord did manage to contact the man whose purse Alosius stole while in the market. He not only had to return the purse, but do four hours of hard labor under the watchful eyes of the city guard.

With no time remaining everyone, including a very exhausted Alosius, makes their way to the ship. The ship is manned by a small crew as expected, but a surprise is that there is an elven-blooded human priest that will be joining them. He says that he was directed to this ship by his Queen to see that the Turanian presence on these shores is removed. After a quick meeting of the minds they decide to accept the help, but secretly plan to ensure the half-elf is never left alone. One mistake and his body will never leave the caverns. At the appointed time the ship rows its way to the cavern entrance and everyone gets into the longboat they have been dragging behind them. Its a bit crowded, but it is not too long before they have reached the cavern entrance.

Once inside they discover that the cavern is very narrow, barely large enough for the longboat to get through. They also have to get out of the boat and walk down the tunnel because it is nearly impossible to maneuver. There is barely a foot and a half from the water’s surface and the top of the cavern in many places. At a small bend in the tunnel the group is attacked by a pair of water elementals. It is a fierce battle as the elementals have all of the advantages – they are in their natural element and the width of the tunnel prevent more that one of them from getting around the creature. Joda and Oeric push themselves to the front of the line and begin hacking at the creatures. It is a confusing battle, but eventually they defeat one and drive off the other. Water-logged they finally reach a spot where the tunnel widens and inclines enough to have some dry land.

This much larger natural cavern twists and turns about with seemingly random abandoned. Joda is sure that is a not volcanic tunnel as is commonly found in his homeland, but neither it is the work of water naturally eroding fissures in the rock. Several times they are forced to turn back from their path when they find it blocked by some of the unusual creatures that inhabit this dank underworld. Finally they reach a section where the cavern has been widened and the floor smoothed. The walls are covered with cave paintings showing a bunch of humans worshiping a large burning winged figure. Alosius conceals the fact that he pulls out the compass and it indicates that they should continue down the path. Feigning lack of fear over the creature he proceeds down the hallway.

Everyone is amazed when they reach a large circular room. There is a narrow black stone bridge going from their side to an tunnel on the other side blocked by a locked iron gate. Alosius proceeds cautiously as the stone bridge is very slippery from the moist air. He eventually makes it to the other side and yells what he finds out about the gate. Rather than use the keys, which he keeps hidden, he begins to bash on the lock, refusing to use the key that Norrin gave him. The clanging sound causes two coal black dogs to approach the gate from the other side. They are breathing fire, which hurries Alosious’ actions. He fails to get the gate open before he is forced to reteat.

Before he can reach the other side the priest manages to decipher the script that is carved into the bridge. Upon uttering the spell the bridge begins to rotate to the right and snake upwards. Eventually it makes contact to the top of the ceiling, which reveals a hidden door. Everyone cautiously walk up the now transformed stairs to the trap door, which enters into some kind of small receiving chamber. There is rotten wooden pegs in the wall and the center of the room has what was once a washing pool made with white tiles. The single door opens up into a long hallway that was clearly worked from smaller tunnels.

The door has no obvious latch or handle, but Alosius manages to find a small broken tile that covers alcove behind it. He reaches into the alcove and manages to prick his hand on a small brass needle near a heavy chain. The poison quickly moves through his body making him feel very unsteady on his feet. In short order he can barely stand upright. The priest assures the companions that he will not die from this poison, but it will take many hours until he recovers from its effects. Avoiding the needle Oeric and Joda manage to lever the door opened enough for everyone to pass through safely.

Much of the hallway has fallen apart due to the ravages of time and the occasional earthquake. Eventually they reach a door covered by a polished brass sheet. Before they can get closer to examine it, the brass flows down off the door like a liquid. The pool of liquid brass rises up and takes the shape of a man – if that man was covered in spikes and had scimitars instead of hands. It was no surprise when the creature attacked – it was a surprise that it moved quickly and effortlessly through their ranks, slashing at them as it passed. Eventually they manage to surround it and beat it down hard enough that it just broke into small shard and did not reform.

The door’s guardian defeated they could see that the door was ornately carved with figures offering up people to a glowing being.  The chamber within was a large rectangular room whose ceiling disappeared into the mist above. The floor was covered in small white tiles and in the center of the room where four ornately carved sarcophagi – one holding a disk, one holding a sword, one holding a shield, and the last holding a book. Stairs were secured into the walls and rose up into the mist. That may have been unusual, but the most disturbing part was the ghostly figures that floated in the mist.

With no other choice they took the stairs up into the mist. Once in the mist their vision was limited to only a few feet and everything rapidly became moist and slick. Several times someone nearly slipped, but each time those nearby were able to steady their companions. The ghostly white figures noticed them, but never came close enough to pose any sort of threat. However one of them, a black cloaked figure carrying a lantern did charge them. While the others prepared for a difficult fight the priest simply yelled at the creature to begone from this world. The creature retreated in the presence of his holy power, but was not banished. The priest cajoled everyone up the stairs as fast as possible before the creature came back.

After nearly a dozen flights of stairs they finally reach a small platform and a door that leads into a small room. In the doorway hangs many lengths of wire holding fired-clay beads. Remembering his experience the last time Alosius, held upright by Sereg, examines the doorway and discovers that two of the wires go into a wider hole with some kind of mechanism inside. It is going to take a great deal of delicacy to enter the room without disturbing those two ropes. With the creature behind them constantly urging them to move quicker they carefully move their way into the room. Oeric and Joda both get caught in the ropes and shocked by lightning that arcs across the wires. It is very painful, but not fatal.

This room is covered in blue and white tiles painted tiles. The painted scene depicts a very reverent people praising a deity. Besides the beaded doorway the only other way out is through a heavy wooden door that is rimmed in ice. Everyone can feel the cold air coming into this room through the door. Outside this room in the rectangular chamber they can hear the figure wailing at them. With very little choice they decide to rest for a few hours before trying to open the door and continue to make their way to the surface.

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