Continuation of previous diary entry…
Reluctantly, we headed out together to the Town Hall. Much of the town was waiting outside, and it seemed that there were out-of-towners here too, who seemed eager to get a glance of me as I walked passed. As I entered the hall I saw many of the community leaders, including Derek, Doctor Thornton, the scout Tanidar Onivari and various others. As I walked in, the chatter suddenly stopped, as though they had been talking about me. I shrugged inwardly and walked towards the Mayor – I’m used to the room becoming silent as I enter.
The Mayor greeted me warmly, and seated me beside him. He explained the situation to all present – the threat approaching the city, the reduced guard. He’s certainly a man who knows how to spin something and his leadership is something I could learn from – he described it as a unique challenge. Finally, he passed a book around, signing his name at the top and inviting others to add their names in order to join the militia. The book went round the table – I added my name, Derek teasing me that I had taken up a whole page with my overly-florid signature. Morden leant over me from behind, deliberately pressing his warm neck against mine as he signed his own name beneath. A great many people signed, even Seneschal Eliron who must be nearly eighty and walks with a limp. Finally, the book was taken outside to the milling crowds and the same plea was put forth. Who would stand with us to save Roderick’s Cove? Morden gave me a bit of a nudge, telling me that I should go and inspire people. He was right, of course – I gave a small speech, which seemed to help a little.
Speaking of right, Morden raised another good point after a while. We had a great number of names, and all these people were willing to help, to fight. But we had no weapons for them. It was evident he had a plan and after a moment he told me – there is an old Thassilonian forge beneath on of the hills of Roderick’s cove, probably stocked with weapons. The only downside? It’s owned by an evil and, by all accounts, extremely powerful Duergar called Dic’Yien. In fact, a while ago they sealed it to prevent the screams and evil noises which drifted up from there. And, to make matters worse, the dungeon is an entrance to Nar-Voth, the upper most region of the darklands. Within living memory, no one who ever entered the dungeon has returned, although periodically adventurers still disappear into the hillside, never to be seen again. This Dic’Yien is bad news – he serves the god Drossgar, Torag’s greatest student-turned-foe. Apparently Dic’Yien follows his master of the dark furnace closely, including his values of toil and the enslavement of intelligent beings. He commands an army of slaves and underlings in his dungeon. However evil he is, his name is known even amongst the dwarves for his creations – his weapons are known to have vast, immense power.
At some point, Dereck joined the conversation. He agreed with Morden that the dungeon was the only place where we could secure enough weapons in time – the orcs could be here in two days, and without a way to defend ourselves we may as well just open the gates and let them in. Thinking that three people against an army of minions seemed a bit meagre, I asked Tanidar and Zao if they would consider joining us. Zao cannot – he must stay outside the entrance to activate the seal on the door, but Tanidar has volunteered. He seems like a good sort, Zao respects him, and a decent scout is hard to find. I also confirmed this plan with the Mayor – at the end of the day, this is his town; after this is finished I will walk away, but he will remain. Going into the dungeon will be a risk, and I needed his agreement before I set this plan in motion. Fortunately, he agreed that it seems to be the only way to equip the Militia – a fighting force won’t be able to do much without good steel in their hands.
So, still rather nervous about such a small party against an army of minions, my final task before I went down into the dungeon was to go see Master Aziel. I negotiated with him for some potions ‘on credit’ in return for magical items from Dissien’s forge. At length he gave me a few healing potions, something to combat poisons, and a protection from evil. The last one was free – apparently because he likes me – but the rest landed me in 2160 gold pieces of debt. I’m not sure how I’m going to repay that, but fortunately it’s not the next problem on the list. Hopefully Shelyn will provide.
So, I have an extraordinary amount of debt and in a few hours I’ll be heading into the pit-of-possibly-no-return with my first love, a black smith and scout who can’t see in the dark. Time for some sleep, I think.
Kuthona 2nd, “Oathday”, of the year 4711
The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, before noon
I think we did it! It took hours, and I had no idea that the world contained so many repulsive things, but we have all the weapons we’ll need for the militia to defend Roderick’s Cove! Even better, a temple has been reclaimed for good. I’m hoping that I might persuade the Mayor to allow me to reconsecrate it in the name of Shelyn. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself. This is supposed to be an account of my journeys, and here I’m starting at the end of the story again.
It was already the early hours of this morning by the time we descended into the temple. I met Zao, Dereck, Morden and Tanidar up on the hill above the town at the agreed time, after my preparations and a little rest. They seemed eager to be on their way. There was a big, weighty wooden door leading directly into the hill, with a masonry frame built around it. Zao unlocked the seal and opened the door, revealing a passage toothed with stalagmites and stalactites. We agreed that Zao should lock the passage after us. If something were to get past us, the town must be protected.
The darkness enveloped us as we walked underground. A pair of large stone doors were the only way ahead. We swung them open and walked into a Temple, evil seeming to hang heavy in the air. Sinister statues of naked women swathed in, and raped by, snakes, stood around us in alcoves. We took a step forwards and the heavy stone door swung shut behind us with a dull finality. We were trapped. Still, there was no need to worry about that until we had completed our mission. So we pressed on.
As we explored, we found a few of the rooms contained grills which led to lower levels, from which the sound of machinery and the occasional cry of pain or despair drifted up. The air smelled damp and stale. There was a library filled with hundreds of tomes, a few old meeting rooms, a guard room containing a scant few weapons, and some barrels of tar – certainly useful, but not nearly sufficient for our needs. At the centre of the main atrium was a darkly bubbling fountain, and upon a dais in front of it was a vast statue of a winged, demonic-looking creature, surrounded by yet more women with snakes. As we explored, Tanidar foolishly touched the fountain, only to discover that it had the power to envelope a man in ice. It was only down to Dereck and Morden’s quick thinking that he did not suffocate before we could get him out. Finally, we found the first life down there, if life it could be called.
Within three cells were enclosed three human men. They reminded me of the lurching zombies raised by the Necromancer Ashtul –it seems a lifetime since that day with Ellessar when we finally vanquished Ashtul, though it was only a few weeks ago – but as the men became aware of my presence they began to speak, where before they had only groaned. They begged me for death in desperate voices, told me that they had been bound to live as bare shells, husks. When I asked them who they were, they told me that they barely remembered their own lives, but that they had been adventurers foolish enough to go in search of Dic’Yien. One in particular had an aura of goodness, and his armour bore the sigil of Erastil. He warned me of dire danger beneath the temple, which they called Thassilonian – creatures both from the upper and lower worlds, including dark dwarves, worked or slaved at Dic’Yien’s will.
I was deeply moved by their pleas for peace. I would have released them from the cells had I thought it would ease their suffering, but their only true release could be death. I delivered them to their gods as cleanly as I could, and called upon Shelyn to forgive me. As each of them died, a black, oily fluid seeped from their bodies. Upset by having no other option but to end the lives of good men, I led our party onwards.
We entered the final unexplored room of the temple, a small vestibule with a staircase leading down. I listened quietly and was about to descend where there was a scream from behind us. A hideous, black, shadow creature had emerged from somewhere behind us, and had grabbed hold of Tolidar. It held the Elf aloft, and appeared to be trying to consume him. I drew my earth-breaker and attacked the creature, but my weapon had little effect. I tried again, and then again, but to no avail. For some reason, my attacks did little but pass through its barely-corporeal form. Morden shot a few strange bullets of light at it, and the creature screamed.
“It’s unholy,” he shouted to me, as Tolidar yelled in pain.
Finally I knew what I had to do – I called upon the holy power of Shelyn to help me smite this evil creature. A great burst of holy energy left my body, healing my companions and making the creature scream anew and drop Tolidar. With Shelyn guiding my earth-breaker, my strikes crushed the shadow and finally it was gone, leaving nothing but that same black, oily fluid which had seeped from the bodies of those poor, captured men. Apparently their wrecked bodies had been used as some kind of holding device or incubator for this unholy creature. I healed Tolidar again, he had been hurt badly by the black creature, but I didn’t want to expend too much of my Shelyn’s healing power prematurely – I had little idea of what we would face next.
I thought on this as we began to descend the spiral stairs in silence. I have, of course, experienced moments of self-doubt before, most notably during those years of my training to Abken. Ellessar did much to boost my confidence when I became his apprentice, and there have been few but he who could best me in a fight. And yet, I was suddenly worried that my powers wouldn’t be enough to get us through this. After all, a fully trained, experienced Paladin of Erastil had been captured by Dic’Yien and turned into something worse than death. Despite my lineage and my training, I was the youngest full Paladin the monestary had ever produced. Perhaps I was in over my head. And yet, what other choice was I left with? I couldn’t leave Roderick’s Cove unprotected. I found myself praying to Shelyn as I wound down the stairs, asking for her guidance.