It’s 8am in the Dwarven Caves. The quiet of this place is eerie and makes me feel deaf, nothing like the never ending hammering and digging down in the mines. Or the friendly banter of the crew throughout the workday. I wonder what has happened to the guys… did any of them escape the camp? How many were turned? What is happening? I keep thinking this must be a nightmare and I will wake up soon, but there is no waking up. I can’t think about this stuff anymore, the silence in these tunnels and my thoughts are driving me crazy. Me of all people should be comfortable down here. I was basically born and raised in a mine, but this place is different…
Shit. What the hell is that noise?! It takes me a moment to realize it is the alarm that Erik set in case something or someone comes through that portal. I thought it would sound like our shift end bell, but this sounds different somehow. It must be the magic. MAGIC! My thoughts sound crazy even to me. I never would have guessed that actual magic existed. Normal people that I once had occasional beers with can shoot lights from their hands. WFT?! Back to the alarm…
Oh Helga, the alarm! I look back into the dark and of course see nothing. Not sure what I thought I would see but there is nothing there. Just the ominous sound of the alarm and the terrifying knowledge that something is coming. And now that we have stolen from someone who seems to be capable of doing us deliberate harm, more than likely that something is coming specifically to do us harm. From the dark we hear a voice.
“Hello? Help, how do I get out?”
The voice sounds frail, old and it is female. We freeze and hold our breath. In whispers, we agree to start moving quickly and quietly back to the entrance of the tunnels. Quickly we start retracing our steps out of this place. Hans trips though and his maul scrapes the hard stone wall of the tunnel. Loudly. So much for sneaking out of here. We hear the old woman’s voice again.
“Help, please help me.”
For an old lady she seems to move quickly as the voice is keeping up with us. This is not right.
We keep moving as quickly as we can, arguing in whispers. Vegard wants to go back and help the old lady. So does Hans. Vegard of all people! It’s not that he’s a bad person, he’s just not really the helping type – at least not how I know him. The rest of us are trying to insist we just book it out of here. Suddenly, Vegard turns around and heads towards the lady. Hans follows. Helga! It’s a trap, I know it, but it’s no use.
“You guys are idiots,” I mutter, and we all follow.
As we are walking back towards her she starts talking again. “This isn’t Finnsbury, I’m Ariel,” she says confusedly. “That mean man took me from my home, put me in a cage and locked me up with those creatures.” And then, “Oh help, one of those things is behind me. Help! Please help me!”
Jensa mentions to those of us hanging back that she is detecting magic around Vegard. Now that makes more sense! Unfortunately, as I see it, we’re screwed. This is trap and we’re charging right into it.
As Hans and Vegard get close to the old lady, I see Hans take a huge swing at Ariel’s head with his maul. The instinctive almost physical repulsion I feel at seeing someone harming a helpless old lady is quickly replaced with resolve to attack when I see how quickly and easily she dodges Hans’ attack. While she lands in a heap on the floor after dodging the maul and continues her old lady routine, the only thing I’m sure of is that this is not an old lady. Jensa also detects magic emanating from Ariel (no surprise there), and after that official revelation Vegard rushes to Hans to physically restrain him from attacking Ariel again, still intent on protecting and helping her.
Heat, so hot, oh god we’re burning. Flames suddenly fill the tunnel, there is no air to breathe and I feel like I’m going to die. The heat and flames stop. We’re all on the ground, I look around everyone is slowly starting to move except Jensa, Vegard and Hans. I’m convinced they’ve died. Dolf checks on each of us, his pendant from the Temple glows fiercely as he ministers to Jensa, Vegard and Hans and when he’s done they too begin moving. What would we have done without Dolf on this journey?
As we all try to get our bearings, we realize Ariel is no longer in front of us. Now there is a young boy, I’d say he’s around 12 years old, if I had to guess, sitting on the floor in a sailor’s suit. For some reason this doesn’t seem odd to me. The boy begins to convince us to come back to his house with him. Realizing we don’t have a choice and that this must be ‘Sal’ in some form, we follow the boy back into the room with the cage and disappear through the portal where Sal locks us all in a cage in his study. He politely asks for us to wait for him (like we have a choice) until he returns from breakfast and leaves us alone. This time the lock on the cage is reinforced with magic. Sal did not make the same mistake twice. And even if he didn’t reinforce the lock, where would we go anyway? It seems unlikely that we would be able to escape his house. Period.
We are all silent for a few moments as we process what has just happened to us, and then all start talking at the same time. The one thing we all agree on is that we are dead and judging by what we’ve seen of Sal’s study, it will be an awful death. I feel panic more than anything else. I just can’t believe that we are trapped here and this is the end. There has to be another way out. And then Vegard suggests the obvious and only hope we have – to go back out through the portal and run for our lives. I don’t for a second believe it will work, but I would rather die trying than trapped in this cage.
We all hold hands and Vegard throws the rope-tethered crowbar into the teleportation area in the adjacent cage. We are once again back in the cave and in the cage, which is closed and locked. My heart sinks momentarily as I assume magic is once again at work on the lock. But there is no magic. Helga is with us. Vegard grabs the crowbar from the ground and pops the lock. We run like the wind. I refuse to look back. I don’t want to know what’s coming for us at this point. I’d rather focus on the slim chance we’ve actually escaped.
We sprint for the exit, skirting the large cavern with the mushrooms and burst out of the exit into the canyon. It is so bright and I’m blinded temporarily as my eyes adjust to natural light once again, almost falling over. We quickly decide to head further east up the canyon. We know what’s behind us and there is no point in going back at this point so we might as well try new territory. Jensa magically obscures our tracks so we are not followed.
We are moving as fast as we can up the canyon, looking for a way out. The walls continue to get steeper and the canyon narrows. There is no way up these walls, so there had better be a way out of here at the end. About 2 miles later we’ve reached the end of the canyon and are faced with a steep rock climb to get out. Vegard goes first and expertly picks out a route up the rock and icy face that we can all follow. As we wait for Vegard to set the route with rope and spikes, we try to distract ourselves from what may be coming after us by trying to remember all that we learned before Sal took his books back:
- There is something called the Greater Council that Sal was once part of but seems to have been banished perhaps due to supporting experimenting with undead.
- Willard ‘The Leisurely’ and Edmund ‘The Pragmatic’ are also on this council.
- The name of the council is also ‘Servants of the Order of Conscious Influence’.
It’s not much. If only we had those books! Vegard has reached the top and one at a time each of us makes the climb up the canyon. Dolf slips and falls but is somehow not seriously injured. Hans slips close to the top. Once again, Helga is on our side. How Hans did not fall to his death, I don’t know. After we all made it safely up from the canyon without any trace of being followed so far, we see endless forest all around us. We venture further east into the forest and decide to set up camp. We are exhausted and this is as far as we can go until we all rest. Dare we hope that we’ve escaped?
We each do our part to set up camp and find food. Mari catches a rabbit and kills a deer. Seriously? What are we ever going to do with an entire deer? Another sign that none of us are functioning optimally. Its dead now, so all that’s left is the eating and that we do. It is a feast. Over dinner preparation we discuss what we should do next. We all want to send a letter to the Temple in Egersund to update them on what we’ve found. Dolf is somewhat reluctant, as he doesn’t feel we’ve found much of anything that is useful or that The Temple could respond to but he agrees to write a letter anyway.
Erik sets to finding a bird that could carry the message to The Temple. I have no idea what could possibly be involved in getting a bird to do what you want but it is amusing to watch Erik from afar attempt to do so. He has found a great horned owl and appears to be deep in conversation with it. And from what I can tell, Erik seems to be on the ‘losing’ end of the conversation. After some time, Erik returns to the group with the owl and grudgingly introduces us to ‘Flies Higher Than the Rays of the Moon on Wings of Silent Death’. Dolf is ready with the note however it is proving difficult to explain to an owl where we want her to go and even more difficult to assess if she truly understands what we’ve explained. Once we are satisfied that we’ve explained what and where we want the owl to go, Dolf attached the letter to the owl. The letter reads:
We believe we found the source of the undead. Seems to be a mage named Salithius. Very powerful. One of the servants of the order of conscience influence. He can change shape. Found secret entrance on south side Turid’s Folly. We found books named:
1. The 9 paths of necromancy
2. Undead: controlling the undead
3. The illusionist’s handbook
5. Monsters by asul
6. Servants of the order of conscience influence
Salithius took them back. Unsure where or what to do now. Give response back to owl quickly.
– Dolf and friends
Once the owl takes off, we set up our watches for the night and go to bed. Thankfully, night passes without incident.
April 20, 1136 – 9am
Camping In Forest near Turid’s Folly
We wake up at 9am, not surrounded by undead or facing a 12 year old boy. We are safe for the moment and for the first time in a days, I actually feel rested. The owl is back and has a message:
The sigil is a symbol of Helga in a deep, deep red color. Dolf looks grim and explains it means Crisis. The groups begins discussing how we are going to make a 3 month journey to Finnsbury. We decide to head south and bypass Egersund altogether. I’m wondering how long I will continue to look behind me to see if a little boy is following us.