Terror of Nagash
Episode 14 - Well Of Demons, Part II
The Caged Boar (continued):
“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe it isn’t this creature’s time to meet the Raven Queen,” came the halfling’s reply.
Working together as a team, Sting, Balomir and Noluck approached the caged animal. “Don’t look it in the eyes,” Sting told the others. “If you do, it will think you’re challenging it.”
Averting his eyes and moving in closer, Balomir was able to remove one of the arrows jutting from the creature’s side. At the same time, he channelled the healing energies of Kord into the beast, soothing its pain.
“Good work, Balo. Now offer it some food, that might convince it that you’re a friend,” Sting suggested.
Slicing a chunk of meat off one of the dead hyenas, Balomir once again approached the boar. Hungry and tired, the creature accepted the offering and quickly devoured it. While it was distracted, Balomir was able to remove another of the gnoll arrows piercing the boar’s side, further relieving the animal’s pain.
Seeing that the boar was no longer snarling and snorting, Balomir grabbed onto the chain that kept the beast confined in the cage. “Noluck, will ya give me a hand?” he asked the warrior.
“Sure thing. You know, back in the old days, fathers would use chains like this to keep their daughters locked up at night. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled one from the ground,” the knight replied.
Grabbing onto the chain and pulling with all their might, the two warriors were able to pry the chain from the ground. No longer immobilized, the boar slowly approached Balomir and gave a loud snort before nuzzling up against the armoured dwarf.
Stepping to the beast’s side, Balomir lifted himself to the creature’s back. “By Kord, if this isnae tha finest beast ya’ve ‘ever seen, I’ll be a kobold’s uncle. Now, let’s kill us some mair gnolls!” the dwarf spoke triumphantly as he patted the beast’s side and rode towards the southern door.
The Shrine of Baphomet:
Beyond the southern door, a corridor lead away to the east then turned back north. Stopping at a door in the eastern wall, Woodie listened for any hint of what might lay beyond. Hearing nothing, the party opened the door which led to another corridor hewn from black rock, connecting three different areas. Ahead, the passage opened into a chamber, while along the eastern wall, closed doors could be seen. The doors were made of black wood, and each had an iron knocker carved in the shape of a minotaur’s snarling face. One was a single door, while the other was a set of double doors. The flagstones on the floor each had the symbol of a bull’s horned skull worked into them in blood red stone.
“I wonder what’s in here,” Noluck asked as he opened the closest door. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, a female gnoll was chanting, deep in meditation. As the door swung wide her eyes opened and she began screaming before leaping to her feet and grabbing hold of a massive flail propped against the wall.
Moving into her room, Noluck yelled back, “Stop yer screamin’ ya dog faced wench!”. His sword slashing at the creature as he entered.
Balomir quickly rode to the far end of the hallway. Rounding the corner, he spotted two tieflings in black clothing and adventuring gear sitting at a table, “Who are you? What is your business here?” they asked.
“Lads, there’s two mair doon ere” the dwarf called to his companions.
Seeing that Noluck had the gnoll scourge under control, Tempest ran down to join Balomir. Approaching the two tieflings he asked “What are you doing here?”.
“We’re Azkelak and Katal, adventurers like yourself, looking for treasure in the Well,” replied one of the tieflings.
“We’re looking for two halflings, have you seen them?” the big warrior asked.
“We don’t know anything about any halflings, we’re just looking for treasure,” the first tiefling, Azkelak, continued.
“They seem a bit shifty tae me,” Balomir whispered to Tempest.
Suddenly, with a puff of brimstone and a sound like a whip-crack, a hulking creature covered in fur burst through the double doors in the middle of the hallway. It roared, flexing deadly claws and revealing terrible fangs. Scanning the hallway, it fixed it’s blood-red eyes on Galt and Woodie.
“What the…” Tempest started, “oh, its just a ape-like demon. Now, where was I? Oh yes, you’re adventurers like us, just relaxing here, surrounded by gnoll slavers and a demon? I’ll ask one more time, what are you doing here and where are the halflings?”
“Look, we don’t know anything about your halfling friends…” the one named Azkelak responded.
“I’ve had enough of your lies, draw steel!” And with that, Tempest charged at the two tieflings.
“What kind of murderers are you guys?” Azkelak screamed before the two tieflings unsheathed short swords and engaged the blue-skinned warrior.
Stepping forward, the demon took a swipe at Woodie with its massive claws. The quick footed wizard dodged the swing and, using her fey powers, teleported herself a dozen strides down the hallway, out of the creature’s reach, to stand beside Tempest and Balomir.
Not wanting to go toe-to-toe with the snarling demon, Galt ran into the gnoll priestess’ room with Noluck.
Seeing that Tempest and Woodie were dealing with the tieflings and Noluck and Galt were busy engaging the gnoll scourge, Balomir decided to single-handedly take on the hideous, vile, snarling, demon with its razor sharp claws and foot long fangs.
“Achh, fer Kord’s sake! Why dae I always ‘ave tae deal wi the biggest brute m’self.”
Turning the dire boar towards the ape-demon, the dwarf charged forward and planted his axe in the creature’s side. With a howl of pain, the beast slashed at the armoured dwarf with its massive claws, the blows glancing off the warrior’s shield. Inside the gnoll scourge’s chamber, Galt whispered an unthinkable cosmic secret, causing the gnoll’s mind to reel in terror. Then, drawing power from Balomir’s life force, the diminutive warlock channelled his eldritch powers, creating a well of darkness that surrounded the scourge, showing the creature its own doom. Blood burst from the gnoll’s snout and she screamed in pain. Retaliating against the psychic attack, she lashed out with her flail and struck the halfling soundly.
“I said stop your screeching, wench,” Noluck taunted, “I’m gonna slay ya just to shut you up!”
Blood sprayed as Tempest’s sword slashed across Katal’s chest. A second later, frozen rays blasted from Woodie’s fingertips, encasing the bloodied tiefling in frost. Seeing the wizard as a greater threat, the two tieflings teleported out of Tempest’s reach, their short swords thrusting at Woodie. Instantly, the wizard called forth an invisible shield and deflected the tiefling blades from piercing her.
Balomir continued his assault on the ape-demon, challenging it with his divine might but the scent of halfling blood wafting from the scourge’s chamber was too much for the beast to resist. Turning its attention away from the steel-clad dwarf, the beast sunk its claws into the halfling. As it did, Kord’s divine energies rained down on it, encasing it in glowing white light and searing it’s fur.
“Cowards! Stand and face me!” Tempest called out before landing another devastating slash across Katal’s hip.
The tieflings continued to thrust their swords at the wizard but were unsuccessful in making contact. In return, Woodie blasted both with her frozen rays.
Still reeling from the warlock’s assault, the scourge dropped her guard allowing Noluck’s blade to slash across her belly. As her insides spilled out, the creature crumpled to the floor, its blood pooling around her.
Seeing the scourge’s life draining away, the demon bellowed out a mournful cry. “Oh, where you two close?” Noluck asked. “Well, let me just say ‘Nanner nanner’, pig face.”
With another quick slash of his sword, Tempest caught the tiefling Katal with his guard down. “Die, you useless tiefling,” he called out with a satisfied grin. As the body slumped to the ground Azkelak, in disbelief, cried “Katal! Noooo!” then turning back to the blue skinned warrior, “You son of a bitch! You’ll pay for this.”
“Not likely,’ replied Tempest as he turned to face the remaining brother. Then, once again, Woodie blasted the tiefling with her frozen rays.
Balomir’s axe connected with the demon creature followed quickly by a blast of eldritch energy from Galt. Seeing an opening, Noluck’s blade struck as well. With Azkelak frozen to the spot from Woodie’s cold magic, Tempest performed his deadly jump-roll-spin-move over the table, his sword flashing through the air and missing the immobilized tiefling.
“Back in the old days, we used to eat demon-apes like you for breakfast,” Noluck taunted as his sword pierced into the creature’s chest. Howling in pain, blood spraying from it’s mouth, the creature collapsed to the ground.
Delivering a solid blow with his sword, Tempest tried one last time to get information from the tiefling, “tell me what you know about the halflings and I might let you live.”
“I hope you burn in the pits of the abyss, bastard!” Azkelak replied a moment before one of Woodie’s magic missiles ended his life.
Taking a moment to catch their breath, the party set about searching the area. “Well, lookie here, a nice wooden chest,” Noluck spoke as he searched the scourge’s chamber. Attempting to lift the lid “oh, rats, it’s locked. Well, only one thing left to do. Take that! And that!” he called as his sword struck again and again until the chest splintered apart, revealing its contents.
A second later, Galt strolled into the room, “Hey guys, what do you think this key is for? Oh, well, I guess we don’t need it now. Hey, those gloves look interesting.”
Woodie and Balomir examined the shrine room where the ape-demon came from. Two tall candleholders stood on either side of the shrine’s entrance, each with a black candle set in it. The alter was made of humanoid bones stacked to form a four-legged table. The bones were joined with wire. A small book, bound in black leather, sat on the alter.
Picking up the book, Woodie read aloud the title, “The Book of Wrath Unveiled.” Scanning the pages, she was unable to decipher the script but images inside made it plain the book was a treatise on the cult of Baphomet. “This might be of interest to the Drow trader back in town,” she said as she slipped the book into her pack.
Gnoll Barracks and Hyena Kennel:
Moving back to the main hall and continuing north, the stench of rotting food -and worse – wafted down the corridor towards them. Several torches illuminated the hallway, showing a darker room ahead. Stepping forward, laughter like barks echoed from just beyond the light.
Leading the way, Noluck stepped into the room. From out of the darkness ahead, large shapes with red eyes and glistening fangs leapt up. Running on all fours, their claws clattered on the stone floor, these creatures bark-laughed as they rushed forward, the sound both humorous and eerily crazy at the same time.
Seeing that they were in a caged area and heading for the gate, Noluck rushed forward to block to creatures from getting out. Woodie moved in behind the knight and started to blast the barking, laughing hyenas with her icy rays.
Moving into the room, Balomir noticed a hallway leading the opposite direction from the hyenas. Not wanting anyone to sneak in behind them, he directed his dire boar in that direction. Turning a corner, he spotted two more gnolls, sitting at a table drinking. Seeing the dwarf approach the two gnolls were quick to pick up spears and move forwards.
Scanning the room as he entered, Tempest spotted a nearby door. As he thrust it open, an arrow flew out and struck him. Another gnoll was standing in the room, drawing back the string of a powerful bow. Loosing another arrow, he called out in a voice that carried the same laugh-bark pattern as the hyenas. “Tear them apart -hee! bark! hee! – and feast on their entrails, my beasts!”
Having collected their weapons, the two gnolls approached Balomir and the dire boar, their spears glancing off the dwarf’s heavy steel armour.
With the gate blocked, only the closest hyenas were able to attack Noluck while the others circled in the back, bark-laughing all the time.
Feeling teeth sink into his leg, Noluck yelled, “Bad dog, bad! Stay, staaaaay.” A slash of his sword cut one of the beasts down.
Taking up positions behind the knight, Galt and Woodie blasted the hyenas with their eldritch and arcane powers.
Dodging the second arrow, Tempest charged the hunt master, his sword coming down on the creature’s arm.
Realizing his powers could be better spent on something other than the turkey shoot in front of him, Galt moved in behind Tempest and blasted the hunt master with his dark magics.
Moving back to the main hallway, Balomir leapt from his mount’s back in the hope that the boar would join him in engaging the gnolls. Instead, the creature simply stood its ground, creating a large, hall-blocking obstacle.
Having taken a couple of strong blows from Tempest’s sword and a blast of eldritch power from Galt, the hunt master began to sag. With one final blast, Galt’s magic dropped the creature to the ground.
The spear wielding gnolls moved on Balomir. This time, the dwarf wasn’t so lucky, both spears piercing through his armour.
With two hyenas down and two remaining, Noluck continued to block their escape from the cage while Woodie blasted away.
Seeing the two gnolls engaging Balomir, Galt turned his eldritch powers on them, blasting the closest with crackling energy.
Calling on his elemental heritage, Tempest slipped into his watery form and, in a crashing wave, slid in behind the two gnolls. Returning to solid form, he swung his sword a the closest beast.
Ignoring the blue-skinned warrior, the two gnolls continued their attacks on Balomir. Again, both spears pierced the dwarf’s armour, nearly knocking him down. With another slash of his blade, Noluck dropped the third hyena. A second later, Woodie’s magic missiles dropped the last.
Catching his second wind and calling on the divine healing powers of Kord, Balomir surged back to full strength and smashed his axe into the closest gnoll. Tempest followed up with a thrust of his sword and the beast dropped to the ground. With the last of the hyenas taken care of, Noluck and Woodie rushed over to deal with the remaining gnoll.
After taking hits from Galt’s eldritch powers, Noluck’s blade and Woodie’s arcane magic, the gnoll was battered and bleeding. Stepping forward and yelling, Balomir asked “Where are the halflings?” but the beast ignored him.
“He asked you a question, where are the halflings?” Tempest said in his booming voice.
Cowering at his words, the gnoll spoke, “the master has them. bark! hee!”
Continuing in his threatening manner, Tempest asked, “Who is your master?”
“Maldrake Scarmaker leads the Blackfangs. bark!”
“Where is he and what is he doing with the halflings?”
“He’s on the other side of the Proving Grounds. The halflings are for the sacrifice. hee! bark! hee!”
“Are you a good slaver? Do you serve your god well?”
“Yes, Graytooth obeys the master.”
“Then prepare to meet him – may you have the rest you deserve!” and with that, Tempest’s sword slashed down on the gnoll.
“Stop! He surrendered!” yelled Noluck.
Ignoring the plea, Tempest’s blade struck again. As it did, fire burst from the blade, the flames of righteousness filling the air with a stench of charred flesh.
Frantic now, the gnoll lashed out at Tempest with its clawed hands. As it did, Noluck attempted to knock it out with the butt of his sword but the beast was flailing about madly and the attack missed.
Woodie’s magic missiles flashed out, striking the gnoll. Tempest’s blade stuck the final blow.
“There is only one fate for the likes of this one – death,” spoke the genasi.
“But he willingly gave you the information you asked for,” Noluck spat back.
“He would have said anything to spare his pathetic life now that justice has caught up with him.”
“How can you just kill like that?”
“Those who knowingly take away one’s right to decide their own fate, particularly by force, must answer to those who can stand against them. What chance did these halflings have?”
“You can’t kill someone after they surrender. It’s just not right. What if word gets out? No one else will back down ‘cause they know you’re a liar. Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
“How’s word going to get out if he’s dead?”
“Well, sometimes the dead talk you know. I’ve seen it myself. Getting them to shut up is usually the hard part. But that’s not the point. It’s a given that if you spare someone’s or something’s life in exchange for information, that the life is still spared after they’ve talked. Back in my day, we’d patch ‘em up and send ‘em off with a bag of coin after the cleric set ‘em straight about right and wrong. Back in those days, we always ‘adventured’ with a cleric. Ahhh, quick and easy healing”, Noluck said with a sigh, “those where the days”
“In my home world, the Primordial Karshimis took what they wanted, without consequence, and my people were slaughtered or enslaved at will. Every day was a constant battle for survival. We developed our own heroes, but that was not nearly enough. By age 14, I had lost more family and friends that I can count, and we never knew peace until the fates intervened and delivered my people to this realm 6 years ago. It is my responsibility to the free peoples of my new homeland to defend those in need when I can. I hope you understand, but with all due respect, I don’t really care if you don’t!”
And with that, the party began a search of the area. With her keen eyes, Woodie spotted a cloak balled up with some other rags. As she pulled it out, she sensed magic radiating from it. “Hmm, this might come in handy,” she whispered to herself.
The Restless Dead:
Doubling back, the party headed for the entry chamber and took the passage to the west. The corridor turned south and came to an open room. Blood stained the floor here. Crimson trails ran from a set of double doors in the east down the corridor and into a door to the west. A sudden chill washed over the adventurers. The cold seemed to penetrate their bodies, causing involuntary shivers. Three spectral figures appeared faintly before them, rising out of the bloodstains. The ghostly figures raised their hands in greeting.
“Welcome, fellow adventurers,” the first one spoke. “I am Valdrog the Brute.” The ghost was of a human male with a thick, black beard and clad in chainmail. His armour was ripped apart. “I am a cleric of Kord,” he spoke in a booming voice.
“I am Sir Terris,” said the second ghost, a dwarf wearing heavy plate armour with the helm’s faceplate closed. “I am a paladin of Pelor.”
“And I am Mendara the Mystic,” the final ghost spoke in a strange, eastern European accent. She appeared as an elf in green robes carrying a tall wooden staff.
“We were adventurers like you,” spoke Sir Terris.
“Until we met the Guardian,” interrupted Valdrog.
“We are here to test your worthiness to proceed. Prove to us that you are worthy,” continued Mendara, “and we may assist you.”
Stepping forward, Tempest spoke to Valdrog, “I’ll prove how strong I am, watch this,” he spoke before attempting a handstand. Unfortunately, he misjudged the weight of his armour and fell before the ghosts.
“Pfft, nice try but you’ll have to do better than that,” Valdrog scoffed.
“For my test, I will demonstrate the ability to recall one’s surroundings,” Woodie spoke. “You will blindfold me and then ask me to recall specific things in the room – for example the number of floor tiles, sconces or door hinges. You can get more detailed such as the colour of your garb including perhaps the color of Mendara’s thong underwear. And if I fail you can spank me.”
“While your ability to see is impressive in its own right, it does not prove you are a worthy adventurer,” Mendara spoke.
Putting down his axe and clapping his hands together, Balomir said “I think I kin impress ya wi’ me strength,” the dwarf spoke as he reached down and hoisted Tempest above his head.
“That is impressive, dwarf,” spoke Valdrog. Continuing, “This place is the Proving Grounds, a testing place for worshipers of the demon lord Baphomet. You must find four items: a knife, a mask, a bell, and a book. You must place each of these items on one of the four circles of runes found in this complex. The items must be placed on the runes at the exact same time.”
“In my travels, I have encountered many strange things,” began Galt, “but none are stranger than travelling through the void.” His voice dipped down to a whisper “I did this once but I had no body. A planet, black and sinister rose before me.” Pausing for a moment before exclaiming, “A burst of fire! A ring of light rising over the planet! I felt pulled inexorably forward. I rushed faster and faster to the planet and then fell past it speeding to the star. Dragons, or what I thought were dragons, leapt around me and yet I fell past the star out into the void. There was something black and terrible and heavy, something I could not avoid, something I could not fall past, something that would crush me. But the tentacles stopped me. Translucent, impossibly gigantic, they seemed to stretch between galaxies, between realities.” Then in a whisper again, “They grasped my formless awareness and turned me to face… the Eyes.”
“A fascinating tale, young halfling, you are quite brave,” Mendara spoke.
“I’m also familiar with the Void,” spoke Woodie. “I have read numerous tomes on the topic of demons and can detail the various methods for gating them into our plane, perhaps you would like a demonstration?”
“That will not be required, I believe you,” spoke Mendara before revealing more information about the Proving Grounds, “Three of the items are held within chambers built to test Baphomet’s worshipers. You can find these chambers to the north, west, and south of where we now stand, through these eastern double doors and then through another set of double doors that leads to the west.”
Whispering to Balomir, Noluck said, “Lift me over your head, and I’ll do a little jump I learned while working for a Trollkin circus…there’s no way they’ll know I’m helping.”
Trusting the knight’s words Balomir spoke to Valdrog again, “If ye think liftin’ that big oaf above ma heid was impressive, wait till ye see this.” Moving towards Noluck the dwarf prepared to lift the knight, “this had better work” he whispered. Then, as he reached his hand down, Noluck stepped forward and, giving a little jump, made it appear that Balomir had lifted him with one hand. As the dwarf stood again, he was able to throw the knight several feet into the air. Stretching his arms out to his sides, Noluck flew through the air, “look at me,” he called, “I’m an angel.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Valdrog, “that is very impressive… and a just a wee bit disturbing.”
“Yeah, well that ain’t nothin,” Noluck said, “watch me heal the halfling’s wounds.” Attempting to show off his skills as a battle medic, he called to Galt, “Get over hear Galt, and I’ll wrap your wound.”
Moving closer to the knight, Galt whispered “but its not even bleeding anymore.” “Good. I can’t fail!”
Taking a closer look at the wound, Valdrog laughed heartily, “Come on! That’s barely a scratch. Ya have tae dae better than that tae impress me!”
“Well, how about my knowledge of gating in devils from the outer planes,” asked Woodie, “would that impress you?”
“That might impress Sir Terris,” the gruff cleric spoke, “but it doesnae impress me.”
“Ok, Sir Terris, would you like me to demonstrate how to gate in a devil?” Woodie asked.
“No, that’s quite all right, I’m sure you can do as you say,” Sir Terris spoke, “the fourth item, the book, in on an alter in a small shrine to the east.”
Having time to study the ghosts, Balomir was able to gain insight into what each of them would find impressive. “Tempest,” he called to the blue-skinned warrior, “try tae impress them wi yer diplomacy, laddie.”
Stepping forward and bowing, Tempest first spoke to Sir Terris, “Good sir, perhaps you are aware of how the noble Genasi people…”
“Never heard of them,” snapped Sir Terris.
Then turning to Valdrog, “Good cleric, “as I’m sure you’re aware, there is only one way to deal with those who abuse their power over others…”
“I disagree,” interrupted Valdrog.
“Uhm, well, uh,” the blue warrior stuttered before turning to Mendara. “My good lady….”
“I am not your lady, you scoundrel,” she spoke.
“Hmmp, the big, blue, word-breaking murderer, can’t impress the spirits with diplomacy. Who’d a guessed?” muttered Noluck under his breath.
“Well, ya tried,” Balomir spoke as he slapped his hand on the disappointed warrior’s shoulder, “but let’s give someone else a try.”
“Mendara,” the dwarf continued, “ma people have dwelt neath the mountains since the dawn o’ time. I know a great deal aboot travellin’ underground, where tae find food in the dark and how tae interact with the other creatures in the caves.”
“This is true, master dwarf,” Mendara spoke, “To the east of the Proving Grounds is the inner sanctum. Its door opens only when the proper ceremony is completed. The items used for the ceremony disappear if you try to remove them from the Well of Demons, and upon completion of the ceremony, they return to their former locations.”
“Mendara,” Woodie spoke, “I have spent many days and nights pouring over books and scrolls in the libraries of my people. I have studied arcana at the greatest mage towers in the realm. I have visited the Feywild and participated in passionate rituals with wood nymphs and unicorns; our naked bodies writhing and grinding together until we…”
“Yes! That’s some story,” interrupted Mendara blushing a ghostly gray, “you are well versed in arcana and the… ways of the Feywild.”
“Speaking of unicorns,” Noluck begain, “Sir Terris, did I ever tell you about the time I nursed a mostly dead unicorn back to full health? Well, sit down, its a long story…”
Sighing, Sir Terris spoke, “I see the years of battle and booze have addled your mind, good knight. You need not tell your story. I’m sure you believe it true and that’s good enough for me. Completing this ceremony summons the terrible Guardian and activates several traps in the area. The Guardian is a green dragon imprisoned here. It can swoop past its prey and attack. It emerges from a great pit in the centre of the complex.”
“Going back to unicorns,” continued Woodie, “I’ve heard that Kord creates a rainbow everytime two male unicorns have sex.”
“Your knowledge of religion is… impressive,” replied Sir Terris, “Kord certainly is fond of rainbows.”
“HEY!” shouted Balomir and Valdrog in unison.
“Yeah, well that’s all nice and everything but listen to me pal,” started Galt, “if I find out any of this information you guys are giving us is wrong, I’m gonna be pretty pissed off. I mean, I’m gonna come back here and kick your ghost white assess. IS THAT WHT YOU WANT? YOU WANT ME TO KICK YER ASSESS?!?
“Easy does it halfling,” Sir Terris said in a soothing voice, “we don’t want any trouble.”
Woodie turned to Noluck and behind her hand, quietly imitated Galt’s high-pitched rant, “I’m a Halfling and I have small genitals”.
Continuing, Sir Terris said, “Each of the chambers in this complex has a magical trap designed to harass intruders. The central corridor is the fastest way to move around, but it also has its own trap: a crushing sphere of magical force that rolls along its length.”
“Ah, yes, I believe I have heard of such magical traps,” spoke Woodie. “If I remember correctly, they were originally created by the great wizard Elminster to protect his spell books.”
“That is correct, your knowledge of arcana is most impressive, eladrin,” Mendara spoke, “There is a treasure hidden in the complex. It is hidden beneath the alter in the chamber south of here.”
Bowing before the party, Sir Terris congratulated the adventurers, “Well done my friends. You have proven yourselves worthy to enter the Proving Grounds and we have told you all we know. Good luck and farewell.”
A Message for Balomir:
As the ghosts congratulated the group, they began to fade away one by one, drifting back into mist and disappearing before the adventurer’s eyes.
However, Valdrog, the cleric of Kord did not drift away. Instead the eyes of the spectre became white and began to glow. In a voice that was clear and calm, completely unlike the brash voice of the cleric, the ghost looked directly towards Balomir and spoke.
“Kord has thrown his lot in with this prophecy, and he has cast his thunderous spirit against the forces of darkness. You Balomir, my brother in our lord’s service, are Kord’s chosen champion and you have a role to play in this prophecy. You have a True Name, and your name is THE GUARDIAN”.
Just like when Paelias’ true name was spoken aloud by the Raven Queen emissary, the adventurers heard a gong in the distance; a ringing that was not heard with their ears, but with their minds.
The cleric continued… “As the Guardian, you have a duty. You must protect THE VESSEL, you must protect THE BLADE. By your hand must be created the instrument that can destroy the darkness. Kord will guide your way”.
With that the cleric’s eyes ceased glowing and returned to normal. The ghost shook his ethereal head and said in his loud brash voice
“Well bugger me… that was weird. Did I just say something? Ahh well, you sorry lot. Best of luck to ye.”
And with that, the final ghost disappeared.
Scouting the Proving Grounds:
With the knowledge acquired from the Restless Dead, the party thought it wise to scout the Proving Grounds. As they were instructed, they found doors leading to the north, south, east and west. Four rooms within the Grounds contained the glowing rune circles onto which they would need to place the four items; mask, blade, bell and tome. A fifth room in the centre of the Grounds was encircled by the central hallway.
The adventurers examined each of the five rooms.
The first room appeared to be some sort of shrine. An alter in the centre of the room was flanked by two idols of the dread Baphomet.
The second room contained several ruined statues. Examining the statues, the party could tell that these were once richly detailed and set with gems and other jewels.
The third room contained four pools of differently coloured liquid. Examining the pools, Woodie was able to determine that the yellow liquid was a deadly poison while the green liquid was an antidote. Galt was convinced that the liquid in the red pool would have an invigorating effect on anyone who drank it; drinking enough could possibly drive them into a frenzied battle rage. The fourth pool containing blue liquid was a mystery to both Woodie and Galt. It radiated magic but they could not determine its power.
The fourth room contained a series of cells with the skeletal remains of prisoners still chained to the walls.
The hallway that encircled the central room was about 10 feet wide. The stone floor was covered in scratches and cracks as if something heavy had been dragged over it.
The final, central room had two alters on opposite sides of a deep, dark pit. This must be where the green dragon guardian rests.
“C’mon laddies, let’s dae it,” Balomir spoke to his comrades.
“I am ready,” intoned the big blue warrior, Tempest.
“As am I,” spoke Sting while adjusting the blades slung from his belt.
Spinning his dagger around the palm of his hand, Paelias quietly spoke, “I am prepared for whatever shall come.”
Turning to the aged warrior, “Do you think this dragon will have lots of treasure?” Galt asked Noluck.
“Back in the old days, we used to hunt for dragon treasure all the time. They always lived in deep, dark pits, just like that one back there. You know, a man could really prove himself in a place like this. What was it the ghosts called it again?”
Rolling her eyes, “The Proving Grounds,” Woodie spoke in an exasperated tone. “All I can say is there better be some hot chicks at the Halfmoon Inn when we get back..” And with that, the adventurers headed for the northern doors.