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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2014 5:42 pm 

Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 5:31 pm
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Eja ran down the pitch black tunnel. Her legs were burning, heart pounding, with sweat pouring down her face. She dared not slowdown. She could not imagine the sheer terror if she lost her only source of light that was being carried ahead of her. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination or if she could still hear their pursuers behind them. “Anything yet?” her panicked voice echoed.


“A door! There’s a door up ahead!” Inoski’s deep booming voice shouted back in reply.


"Quickly! They are upon us!" shrieked Sangalik.


The three of them charged through the open door. Using their combined strength they pushed the heavy metal door through centuries of dust and dirt, stopping with only a few feet to spare. Inoski handed his torch to Eja and knelt down to prepare another one from his pack. Eja marveled at the expansive chamber. She wiped the dust covered floor with her boot revealing yellow metal tiles covered in intricate knot engravings. She held the torch high above her head but the light could not reach the ceiling or walls, only the door they entered and the smooth rock face it was embedded in. “Wait! Where are Arrid and Eilo?” Eja asked. She rushed to the door, held the torch aloft just outside it, and searched the blackness for their lost companions.


Eja saw Arrid hobbling desperately towards the torch light. With each foot fall, Eja heard him gasp and then curse under his breath from the pain. She noticed the blood trickling from underneath the bandage on his leg. “Just a little further… ugh… almost there,” Eja remembered when Arrid would be stressed he would mutter to himself. When he finally reached the door, she pulled him in and passed him to Inoski. Inoski caught Arrid as he collapsed, gently rested him on the floor, and propping him up against the wall.


"Hurry, Eilo! They're right behind you!" Eja yelled.


Still some way down the darkened corridor raced a small pudgy man with hair-covered bare feet. Eja could hear the moaning of the mob pressing in on him. Eilo cried out between sobs, running for his life toward the door, "You promised this wouldn't happen! You promised..." Dismay clouded Eja’s face as Eilo stumbled and fell, still several yards from her outstretched arms. Just beyond the torch light something grabbed Eilo around the ankles, yanking him back into the darkness.


“Eilo! No!” Eja started back into the tunnel but Inoski grabbed her arm, pulled her into an ironclad bear hug.


Sangilak quickly slammed the heavy door shut and slid the thick iron bar deep into the adjacent wall until there was a resounding “click” from inside the wall. Even with the door closed, the sounds of the Halfling's screams as he was eaten alive cut through stone, metal, and their souls, then there was only silence.


Inoski released Eja once she had stopped struggling. She threw down the torch, drew her pine green cloak tight, and crossed her arms around herself. Her hood hid her face in the shadow of the torchlight and her shoulders were shaking. From under her hood, she looked at the others standing apart from one another, unable to meet each other's eyes.


Across from her, Sangilak stood tall and slender in his black leather cassock, holding his face in his hands as still as a statue. Beside her stood Inoski, a hulking muscular brute, with his broad back to the rest of the group. He interlocked his fingers behind his thick neck, looking down, and slightly shaking his head. Arrid, collapsed against the door, was tightening his tourniquet at mid-thigh as his brown sweat-drenched curls fell about his face. He mumbled sarcastically through clenched teeth, "Abandoned Dwarven city, easy pick'ns... no more dangerous than that time on the Cairnlands."


"Alright! How many times do I have to say it? I'm sorry!" Eja exploded, throwing back her hood and freeing her amber tresses.


"Sorry isn't going to find us a way out of here, now is it?", came a gruff snip from Inoski.


"No, that was Elio's job...." Eja said defensively.


Arrid interrupted her, "Well, Eilo’s dead! He was our expert on everything underground, the landmarks, animals, even natural disasters. He told you we were heading the wrong way and you wouldn’t listen. Now, we are lost!”


"Ok! I screwed up!" Eja shouted as her emerald eyes welled up with tears.


"If we were sent to find and explore a lost dwarf city, why didn't the Pathfinder Society send a dwarf with us?" Inoski’s snout flared as he bellowed, his normally deep olive green skin had an orange hue in the torch light.


"None wanted to come." Eja muttered.

"Now we know why!" shot Arrid.


"I thought they were being superstitious!" she shouted back. “This expedition is our last chance to get a permanent position within the Pathfinder Society. If we return to the surface without a significant find or accomplishment, we might as well not return.”


“That is insane! There is always another expedition!” Arrid was exasperated.


“Not like this one!”


"Shut up! Just, shut up!" Eja was startled by Sangilak’s outburst since he was usually the mild tempered one. Everyone became very quiet, looking away as Sangilak paced the floor, pushing his sandy blond hair behind his large pointy ears, "I want to go home. I will not be food for those things. We must find a way out of here!"


"Sangilak is right! This is getting us nowhere. We all want to escape to the surface alive, right? Ok, first thing we do..." Eja strode to the center of the group.


"No! You can forget it! We're done listening to you." Arrid stood up, putting his weight on his good leg. "Inoski, we need to figure out where we are and put some distance between us and the undead." Inoski nodded, drew his wickedly jagged sword and holding his torch aloft, and left to scout around. Leaning against the door again, Arrid looked to Sangilak who looked slightly more composed now, "Do you sense any imprints of magic here?"


Sangilak looked around, tried to slow his breathing, and closed his eyes in an attempt to concentrate. "No, I am not sure if my anxiety is interfering, or I am just exhausted. I need to rest in meditation before I can attempt to pinpoint any magical frequencies."


"Well, don't slip into a trance until we secure this area." Arrid forced himself off the door and stumbled a little. Eja reached out to catch him and Arrid batted her hand away.


"I was only trying to help."


"Eja, you've helped enough today." With an eat-dung glare, Arrid limped past Eja. She wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes once everyone's backs were turned.

All of a sudden, they heard the undead pounding and scratching on the outside of the door. For a moment, the three of them were frozen with terror. Sangilak looked in all directions for any path of escape, but unsure of which direction to go. Hunched over with his jaw clenched tense with fear and pain, Arrid managed to weakly draw his sword. Eja picked up the torch, and waited for the door to give way and an avalanche of flesh craving damned to burst through.


"I think I found something!" from behind Eja, Inoski’s call echoed through the massive cavern. They waited to see if the door would hold. It showed no signs of movement there was only the sound. Sangilak nodded to his human companions, they turned and fled towards the faint light of Inoski’s torch.


As they got closer, they could see Inoski standing on white marble stairs that extended both up and to the right beyond the torch light, on his left was a massive seven foot tall black stone base, and resting on that a colossal statue of white marble. "Can't see it's face from down here but from this sandal, I'm guessing it’s a dwarf’s god." Inoski said with confident insightfulness.


"Yes, I am sure you discerned that from his footwear." scoffed Sangilak. Eja sighed with annoyance at the elf's typical sarcastic humor. "Allow me to take a look at the runes, perhaps they will tell us more about where we are." Sangilak leaned down to wipe away the dust and cobwebs. "Torag', must be the name of the statue. ‘Lord of the' something 'fire place'. I have had little need to study dwarven, but I would hypothesize this is a god of the hearth." He stood up to walk away.


"Torag, Lord of the Soul Forge.' Arrid corrected as he finally approached limping. "He is the father of the dwarven peoples."


“You sound certain.” Sangliak stated condescendingly. Arrid lifted a thin chain from under his shirt with a small silver medallion engraved with a hammer and anvil. Eja looked and saw the runes encircling his medallion matched those on the stone base.


The elf eyed him with confusion, "Arrid, I had no idea you were part dwarf?"


"I'm not. I have always been fascinated with dwarven culture, religion, and language. I learned some dwarven back in Absalom. I can never produce enough phlegm to speak it properly, but I can read it fairly well. This was a gift from my tutor." He admitted looking fondly at the necklace.


"Wow. A leader and a linguist, we're being treated to all of your hidden talents today." Eja said disgusted.


"Shut it, you..." Arrid’s face grew scarlet and he thrust the medallion back under his shirt.


“Is this the beginning of a larger temple complex?” Sangilak interrupted.


"Yes, Eilo and I talked about it before we descended into the mountain. We are at the heart of this underground citadel." Arrid said. “There would be only one entrance, which we have already secured, so unless this place contains any more flesh-eating dwarf corpses, we should be relatively safe for now." Despite this hopeful news, all Eja could think of, was pummeling Arrid.


Inoski brought them back to their senses, "The heart of the underground citadel'? Doesn’t that also mean we are at the farthest point from the surface and miles from where we first entered the mountain? And only one way in, means only one way out."


Eja wondered if Inoski's under-bite was always so predominate, or only when he was pouting. Arrid shuffled forward, "We are in an easily defendable position in a hopefully ghoul free zone with the potential for hidden temple treasury. Considering our day, I would say this is as good as we could hope for." Inoski just stood nervously raked his large lower canine teeth over his upper lip.


"Hades, Inoski! I bet at the top this eighty foot statue there might even be a pair of wagon wheel sized ruby eyes! You up for a climb?" Arrid announced with exaggerated enthusiasm. Inoski chuckled with a snort at such a ridiculous notion. Arrid slapped him on the shoulder and Inoski just nodded in reply.


"We had better hope that there is another way out, because the entrance tunnel is piling up with undead trying to break down that door. With our illustrious leader's permission," Eja feigned a curtsey towards Arrid, "I 'suggest' we make camp." She stood with folded arms, tapping the toe of her leather boot. Arrid rolled his eyes at Eja, and then nodded to the other two.


Inoski climbed on to the stone base reached down to help the others up. As Sangilak stood up, he tilted slightly, “Eja, how much drinking water do we have left?” She held up her canteen and shook it so everyone could hear how little was left. “I hear running water somewhere up the stairs.”

“I’ll go, if it is unsafe to drink, I will be able to tell.” Eja hoped down to the marble stairs and held her hand out for their canteens. Sangilak and Inoski immediately handed them over their water skins but Arrid hesitated and looked at Eja suspiciously. “Totter yourself up there then!” Eja stormed off, the other two frowned at Arrid, who shrugged then slowly limped after her.


Eja reached the top of the platform after thirty stairs and could see the bottoms of huge columns that were in a row disappearing into the darkness in both directions. From there she started to hear the faint sound of running water. “And that’s why I can never sneak up on an elf.” She thought. Beyond the first set of columns was a second but these were thinner than the first and she could begin to make out a ceiling still a good distance above her.


Once under this roof the interior walls were covered in relief sculptures depicting processions of bearded dwarves carrying offerings of their metal crafts from chalices to tools to weapons. Eja for a moment forgot about water, zombies, even her companions as she daydreamed of finding a temple treasury filled with dwarven riches suitable only for their gods.


After a moment, she continued to walk carefully in the direction of the sound of running water. She found an antechamber with a large fountain taking up much of one wall. The sculpture on the wall depicted dwarven smiths merrily tempering tools and weapons in the water pouring forth from the wall. She noticed the water smelt rich with minerals. Eja drew her dagger and held it in one of the streams. She saw though clear, it had a brownish-red tint to it. The water in the pool was clear to the bottom and was free of any mold or algae. She removed her gloves and let the stream wash her hands, it was cool and pleasant to touch. Eja leaned in and opened her mouth, letting the stream run over her lips and down her chin. The water was refreshing and only had a hint of a metallic aftertaste. She wiped her chin with her clean hand and felt the dirt from the past few days. She washed her face and then her arms. The pool at its base was wide and deep enough for her to bathe in and Eja thought, “It’ll only take a minute.”


Eja sighed after such a short reprieve. She pulled her boots back on and twisted her mostly dry hair back into a bun. A noise in hall broke her calm and she jumped up arrow cocked to her bow staring at the dark arch way of the fountain room. After a long moment, she heard a familiar voice gasping for breath, “Don’t… shoot.” Eja huffed and lowered her bow as Arrid stumbled into the light. “Thirty stairs… why thirty stairs?” Arrid limped to the fountain, knelt, and loudly splashed himself with the water from the pool. Eja smirked knowing he was drinking her bath water.


“You must have wanted to climb those stairs otherwise you would have handed me your canteen.” Eja held up the full canteens.


Arrid straddled the edge of the pool and rinsed his leg wound. “Maybe, I didn’t trust you to find your way back.”


“You want to know something; this city is a gold mine for archeology, anthropology, history, never mind what the antiquities will fetch from Dwarven collectors or kings! When we get back to the surface…”


“What?” Arrid yelled and slapped a splash of water at her. “When we get back? I can’t see beyond our next canteen of water and you are making threats about our lives together when we reach the surface.”


Eja snatched up her gear and stomped towards the entrance, “Not together.”


“What was that?” he called after her.


She spun around on her heals, “I said, not together! There is no we, no our, and certainly no lives together. Enjoy the thirty stairs back.” She turned and returned to camp within minutes.


Inoski and Sangilak had setup camp with their bed rolls and a small cooking fire in the area between the enormous statue of Torag’s stone feet. Eja approached still seething and plopped the canteens down in front of them. Inoski stood up and asked, “Did Arrid catch up with you?”


“He should be along any minute.” Eja replied coldly.


“You didn’t wait for him?”


Eja glared at Inoski then sighed, “Fine! I’ll be right back.”


“I got him.” Inoski grabbed his sword, slung it across his back, and sprinted off.


Eja rolled out her bedroll and laid down in a huff. Sangilak observed her for a moment, noting her clean skin, and wet hair, “You look… refreshed.” Eja pulled her blanket around her and rolled on her side without a word. She waited until she heard Inoski and Arrid return before falling asleep.



Hours seemed like days in the subterranean Darklands. The constant slow thuds of fists smashing against the distant door made every moment a reminder of their fragile mortality. Eja watched the others as they ate in silence the dried rations from their packs. She thought of Eilo, how he always had some spice or herb to dress up the rations, and would share with her. She was amused by how he would act like he was being sneaky with his secret ingredients, though she was sure the others didn’t care. They each got up and set about preparing for the unknown dangers of this day.


Eja restrung her longbow. She held the leather wrapped grip in her left hand and tested the draw. As she loaded two and half foot arrows into her quiver, her fingers traced over the bear claw attached to her quiver. She had won it in her first archery completion and her mind drifted. She thought of how confident she had been as a game warden for the lumber barons. Her hunting skills became legendary in that region. Perhaps it was all the awards and fan fair that swelled her head. 'Quick thinking and level headed' is what they said about her when she first joined the Society. Now she wished she could be back in that crappy town in the Darkmoon Vale and never had heard of the Pathfinders. ‘How arrogant have I become?’ she wondered. What made her think she was fit to lead an expedition into these mountains? Frustrated with her weakness, she tried to push all guilt from her mind over what had happened to Eilo. She thought there would be time to mourn when she escaped this place. She looked around at the others as they struggled in silence with their own demons.


Sangilak sat in lotus position and attempted to meditate. He tried to ward off the encroaching panic by not thinking about the miles of rock and dirt that loomed above him but the more he tried the harder the struggle became. He anxiously reached into a small pouch on his belt and removed a single miniscule mushroom with his slender fingers. The grey mushroom was ordinary except for a neon orange strip along the edge of the cap. He had bit his lower lip with apprehension before closing his eyes and devouring the fungus. Immediately, his muscles slumped loose and his eye lids opened slightly. Sangilak’s normally dark royal purple iris had a neon orange ring around it. He breathed deeply and slipped into his meditation.


Inoski replaced his spelunking gear with a leather brigandine over a chainmail shirt. He ran through his practice drills using his hand and a half jagged edged sword. He carefully cleaned the crude blade, tracing the primitive carvings of his mother's people. As he stared at his weapon with contempt, Eja realized she knew very little about his past, other than it was a lifetime of rejection and abuse. She remembered him telling her once how he would focus his loathsome feelings for his heritage to fuel him through many of his battles.


Arrid stood leaning on Sangilak's quarter staff. He was looking down at his bandaged leg; 'Luckily it isn't infected.' he murmured and then got quiet. Eja thought it might be too early to tell. The frantic run down the entrance tunnel had made his injury much worse. Arrid limped over to the others, "We need to split up and try to cover more ground."


"Isn't it one of the cardinal rules of Pathfinders not to split the..." Eja tried to ask.


"We are in a desperate situation” Arrid continued angrily, “That door is not going to hold forever!” He turned to Inoski and Sangilak, “We'll enter the temple interior through the center, then you go to the left and you go to the right. We'll meet at the south end at the main altar." The three turned to cross the courtyard and enter the temple's interior.


"Wait! What am I to do?" Eja blurted, a little surprised at herself.


"Don't care." Arrid mumbled without so much as pausing to look in her direction. Sangilak looked back and shrugged apologetically at her but then sprinted after Arrid.


Eja looked in the direction of the door, listening to the constant pounding, feeling alone. She was startled when she noticed the hulking silhouette standing close to her. She uneasily looked up at him. Inoski's heritage cursed him with a savage appearance, yet his eyes were kind as he spoke to her, "We may need to camp here for a while longer. I wish I knew some ways to secure the area." He turned and sprinted off. Eja smiled after him.



Sangilak and Inoski went in opposite directions at the first row of huge columns. Arrid waited until their torch light was at a distance, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a large gold coin. The coin was smooth on both sides but unusually thick. On it’s edge there was a small protruding silver fin. He held the coin with one hand and with his thumb slide the fin along the edge of the coin until it disappeared and a green tinted lens fanned out from the edge of the coin. Arrid held the coin in his left hand and raised the monocle to one eye while shutting the other. The temple took on an emerald appearance through the lens but Arrid could see clear as if daylight had reached the subterranean temple.


He inched his way through the entrance, passed the fountain, and reached the inner atrium. Ahead of him were five archways all leading into one gigantic hall. Arrid stood in one of archways and took in the site. The main hall consisted of five aisles, a wide central nave and two smaller aisles to each side, which were each divided by twenty-one marble columns. From the five arch ways to the southern wall must have been over one hundred yards, several thousand dwarves could have fit in this place all at once. Statues of dwarven kings, heroes, and deities lined the interior walls. He marveled at the gabled jewel encrusted ceiling that was painted like the night sky. The ceiling's starry constellations were made of diamonds and the major planets were represented by rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious stones. The center piece of worship was on the south wall, a relief statue of Torag creating the dwarven people in his divine forge before an raised alter made of a massive anvil. Arrid felt overwhelmed and entered reverently for even in this long abandoned place the power and majesty of the Dwarven people and their gods was palatable.


As he approached the apse, he heard rapid yet hushed breathing coming from behind the altar. "Who's there?" Arrid called out with sword drawn, expecting something gross to leap out at him.


"Oh gods, you're not one of those things are you?" came a terrified and feeble voice.


As Arrid panned around the altar he saw an old ragged dwarf with a dirty strip of cloth covering both of his eyes, "Are you blind? How did you get down here?"


“There was a mining accident. I was separated from my crew. Will you please help me?” The old dwarf put down his walking stick and reached toward Arrid with an empty quivering outstretched hand. Arrid switched his sword to his left hand and reached out to help the old man up.


Suddenly, the old dwarf's hand withered. With the illusion gone, Arrid could see its true form. It was dressed in rotted vestments over withered flesh. Its bearded mouth hung open in a silent scream with an unholy light shining from its eyes. Before Arrid could recoil, the thing grasped at him, scratching Arrid’s arm as he pulled away. Arrid cried out in pain as he fell back, dropping his sword and clutching his forearm. The creature crawled towards him. Arrid heard Inoski and Sangilak rushing toward him and shouting his name. As the abomination was about to pounce at him, it was startled away when Inoski charged with his sword held high. Inoski swung his sword, barely missing the creature. It turned and fled into the darkness of another chamber. Inoski stood over Arrid, and scanned for any danger, "What was that?!"


"I don't know but this scratch it gave me burns really bad!" Arrid replied. Inoski looked at the four deep lacerations on Arrid’s forearm and looked to Sangalik for reassurance.


"Most likely it's venom." said Sangilak as he examined the wound. "All we can do is clean and dress your arm. Let's get you back to camp." Arrid nodded in reply. Though Inoski and Arrid were close to the same height, Inoski easily lifted Arrid off the ground and carried him like a child.


As they approached the camp, Eja stood up from setting another snare trap. When she saw Arrid being carried, she strolled towards them. "Injured again? What, did he fall on something?" She asked annoyed.

Inoski shot her a look that said 'back-off'.


"Phiff, what's with him?" She looked at Sangilak who was lagging behind examining a small book.


"He was scratched on the arm by..."


"On his arm? Then why is he being carried like a new bride?" Eja scoffed.


Sangilak gave her a disapproving stare that made her very uncomfortable, "There is something in here with us. We are not sure what and there could be some kind of venom. We are trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible.”


“What can we do?” Eja looked concerned.


“Perhaps this temple has items of healing magic hidden among its treasures." Holding up the small book, waving it slightly, Sangilak kept walking to where Inoski was tending to Arrid's wound.


Sangilak’s grave tone gave Eja pause. She started to think of Eilo and how she didn’t want to lose another member of their expedition, even though Arrid had been horrible to her. Her guilt was refreshed as she thought about the choices she made that lead them to this point. She watched as Inoski treated Arrid’s wound with the skills he had as a field medic, it was efficient but painful. She remembered her medicinal herbs in her pouch, "If you'll let me, I can boil a tea that will help with the pain." Arrid grimaced but nodded, his forehead already starting to sweat from the fever.


Eja started mixing the herbs in a small pot over their camp fire. Eja caught him staring at her and his expression was soft and regretful. Her mind wandered back to the first time she met Arrid. They were both new to the Society. She thought he was cocky and arrogant, yet ruggedly charming. He turned on his side, moaned, and clasped his arm. Eja tried to hurry the medicine along.


Eja held his head up and placed a bowl of the steaming tea to his mouth. He tried to pull away from the foul tasting beverage but she held firm saying, “You have to force it down if you are to feel any relief.” He finished the bowl and rested his head back on his bedroll. She watched Arrid as he started to lose consciousness. She started to feel sorry for him. Once the fever had begun to reduce, Eja redressed his leg wound. She stood up, "I should check my snares...” she realized he was fast asleep, “you look better." She smiled down at him in spite of herself.


Eja was turning to leave and was startled by Sangilak standing behind her. The elf's analytical stare let her know he has been silently observing for some time. He raised a knowing eyebrow, mumbled something about the fickleness of humans, and walked past her to speak to Arrid. "Looks like your 'friend' left this behind." He tossed the small book onto Arrid's chest which jarred him from his sleep. "I don't believe it is a magical text but, as we know, my dwarven is less than adequate. I thought since you will be lying around for a while, you wouldn't mind translating this for me. Eja can watch over you while Inoski and I search for a way out of here."


Arrid sat up wearily, flipped through a few pages, and looked up at the elf, "It seems to be the journal of a priest named Maludar." He looked back down and began reading again.


"Excellent. That is more than what I was able to understand. Perhaps it will help give us some insight." Sangilak looked at Arrid for a moment, measuring his level of excitement and his laborious breathing then sharply turned on his heels and left. As Sangilak passed Eja he whispered, “Keep him working on that book.”



After hours of combing over the expansive temple area, Inoski noticed a clue. “Look over here, earth movement” Inoski whispered running his hand across the large deep crack in the marble foundation of the temple. “It must have been a long time ago.”


“Impressive.” Sangilak said. “There is an outline of a door way here also.” He blew along the crevasse to clear the surface dirt away. “The earthquake caused this hidden door to be more noticeable and yet, it has wedged the door in such a way that we are unable to enter the chamber beyond.”


Inoski traced the edges with his hands, “It will take time and be very loud but I can open it. Could this be an emergency exit tunnel?” Sangilak didn’t answer. Inoski turned around and saw Sangilak looking into the darkness behind them. “It has been stalking us awhile.” Inoski whispered in a weighty tone.


Sangilak asked surprised, “You can hear it, also?” Inoski shook his head and pointed to his upturned broad nose. Sangilak stared into the darkness awhile, “It is too patient to be a zombie.”


“If it is the creature that attacked Arrid it is also cunning and quick.” Inoski warned. “Perhaps it is a vampire or a shade?”


Sangilak shook his head “I have devoted my whole life to the study of the arcane. This thing seems familiar, yet in a hundred years of being in the field, I have never encountered anything like it.” He reached into his satchel and drew forth a thick piece of white chalk. He began drawing an intricate design on the floor in front of the hidden door. The circle started small and grew to eight feet in diameter filled with arcane runes of power. The elf sat lotus style in the middle of the circle chanting. A sudden and forceful breeze swirled inside the circle for only a moment and then the air was still again.


Inoski pulled a heavy mallet and a metal chisel from his pack, “Ready?”


“You may proceed nothing evil can cross over the circle.” Sangilak answered.



Hours later, Eja rushed towards Sangilak and Inoski, "He's getting worse! Did you find anything useful?" They both shook their heads downhearted. "What are we going to do? You two have been gone for hours!"


"We had to move through this place slowly. There could be traps, or we could miss a clue. We did find a hidden storage room and recovered these artifacts, but nothing that could magically heal him or get us past the undead.” Sangilak explained.


“Plus, that thing that attacked Arrid, it seems to be stalking us." Inoski said wearily. “There is no way out. Either we will run out of supplies and starve or the door will give way and we will be overrun by the zombies.”


“So those are our only two options?” Eja asks as she looks up at Inoski.


“No! I did not live a hundred and seventy-six years to die in this hole! Maybe the tunnel will clear out after a while, maybe we can hammer through the fountain wall and swim out, maybe Arrid could…”

Eja interrupted, "Arrid could what? He is getting weaker by the minute. He keeps reading that journal you gave him as if it is important or something. The dwarf that wrote it wasn't even from here."


"It was never about the journal. I needed to give him something to take his mind off the fact that he was dying. He is probably still alive now because of it." Eja went to argue but looked past the elf to see Arrid standing nearby with Inoski's aid. Sangilak looked over his shoulder to see they had been close enough to overhear. "I'm sorry..."


"Don’t be, it was a noble ruse on your part. I believe I have an answer to our problem." Arrid weakly but cheerfully announced. Eja and Sangilak directed their confused expressions to Inoski, who merely shrugged.


"Sit; let me tell you what I’ve discovered." After they were seated, Eja motioned that Arrid explain himself lying down. He laid down and continued, "Maludar was so close to the gods that he could divine their will in the entrails of a sacrificial animal, vanquish a room of undead with a single prayer, and even resurrect the dead."


"Men are always the most exaggerative about their own exploits." Eja said.


"That's what I thought at first, but I kept reading." Rapidly flipping pages, he stopped near the end. "The most interesting is what happened when Maludar came down here. This city is called Saggorak. No one knew about the city being full of undead. They must have expected orcs or something, because they came with an entire army.”


“I always marveled at the majestic beauty of The Five Kings mountain range, with its pine forests and snowcapped peaks. But now, deep within the mountain, the serenity has been shattered by the echoing screams of our desperation. Thousands of the most battle hardened warriors, clad in brilliant armor, now flee in full retreat. Our ranks were swarmed by an infestation of undead that must have lain dormant for centuries. The sound of horns rang across the vast dome ceiling high above the great city. The labyrinth of alleys and tunnels has made it impossible for our large army to stick together.” – The Journal of Maludar, High Priest of Torag


“But even a dwarven invasion force was no match for a whole necropolis. Maludar hypothesized that Magrim, the dwarven god of the underworld, was somehow denying these souls entrance to the afterlife. He proposed to his king that the souls of the dwarves were trapped in their undead bodies and through an elaborate ritual, their bodies could be healed thus restoring them to life."


Sangilak gasped with astonishment, "To reverse the effects of undeath for even one person would take dozens of the most powerful manipulators of the arcane forces."


"Yes, and that is what went wrong! The king tells Maludar he accepted his plan, but was not willing to return with more clerics, requiring Maludar to perform the ritual himself. Maludar, who had grown arrogant concerning his level of involvement in prior miracles, began to question if 'he' could pull it off.”


"Obviously he couldn't, because we are trapped between this temple and a sea of zombies." Inoski interjected.


"That's just it, though; divine magic doesn’t come from the cleric, it comes through the cleric. Maludar had forgotten this, so when he tried the ritual, the gods left him to his own power. Instead of realizing his pride and folly, he jumped to the conclusion that the gods had turned their back on him.”


I must have knelt in the ancient temple for hours as my friends were overwhelmed outside. I heard the heavy door of the temple slam open and stout footsteps running frantically across the polished pyrite tiles. I thought it was one of the creatures when I heard her voice, "Maludar, we are cut off from the king's main forces. The undead have pushed them back and he has sounded the horns of retreat. You must come with me now! We need you to clear a path for us to escape." It was the king’s niece, Roxana, a young knight never tested in battle. I made no reply. "Did you hear..." she insisted.


"I heard you." I muttered under my beard. "Why did Torag not warn me before we came here? Why does Magrim deny their souls entrance into His caverns of the dead?" I looked up with my face stained in tears, "Our gods have deserted us." I told her.


She stood for a moment, stunned. "But, there's a chance..."
"NO!" I shouted in anger and stretched out my bleeding forearms toward her, "This is the only course for us now... better this than food for the damned."


Roxana’s face contorted with horror as she realized that the deep vertical wounds were self-inflicted. With the last of her hope gone, she turned on her heels to flee from me. I could hear her panic as she shouted to anyone still alive to hear, "THE HIGH PRIEST HAS FALLEN! FIGHT YOUR WAY OUT! FIGHT YOUR WAY OUT OF ACCURSED SAGGORAK!" – The Journal of Maludar, High Priest of Torag


“In a fit of despair, he took his own life in this very temple and it would be years before he realized his mistake."


"What did you just say?" Eja perked up, suddenly interested.


"Well just that he placed his faith in...."


Eja interrupted, "Not that part, the part about him learning his lesson after he died! How do you know that?"


"Because he wrote it right here..." Arrid turned the book toward the others and they all leaned into see the entry written by a dead man.


"That means the thing that is trapped in here with us..." Inoski started.


"...is Maludar." Arrid finished his sentence smiling.


“Why the hell are you smiling?” Eja asked Arrid confused.


Sangilak's face brightened as if he had found the answer to a difficult puzzle, "A huecuva! A huecuva is usually a cleric or holy person who has fallen from grace with a deity before their death. To become a huecuva after death is said to be one of the surest signs of a deity’s wrath. Now that I know exactly what we are dealing with, I know the best way to destroy it."


"Destroy him? No, haven't you heard what I've been saying?" Arrid asked. "Don't you see? Maludar wrote everything out, the prayers, the symbols... it's all here. We can save him!"


"What?" Eja blurted.


"However, we need a cleric of the dwarven gods." stated Sangilak.


"The gods can do whatever they want with whomever they want. I'll stand in the place of the cleric, but the gods will do all the work. All you've gotta have is faith." Arrid replied.


"You're not even a dwarf! Why would they listen to you?" Inoski asked.

Sangilak whispered to Inoski, “I am almost to the point that I would bow down to a dwarf god if it would mean us getting out of this.”


"I believe my Lord Torag has sent us here to rescue his cleric and end his undeath...." Arrid began to explain.


“Your Lord?" Eja asked, incredulously.


"...and in turn Maludar will heal me of this venom." Arrid's tone was somber. His friends looked at his sweat covered brow, pale complexion and sunken eyes and knew there was not much time left. They looked at one another and nodded in silent agreement.


"How?" asked Sangilak.


"I have a plan."



Arrid entered the inner sanctum of the great Temple of Torag, equipped with holy instruments, incense, and wearing a gleaming white chrysotile vestment, the artifacts Inoski and Sanglik had recovered from the hidden chamber. He lit the lamps throughout the temple illuminating the entire area. He brought out the incense and began to sing the psalms written in Maludar’s journal.


The incense and song quickly reached its target. In the enclaves high above the temple, the huecuva's sleepless slumber was disturbed by a lost memory. With the screams of dwarven warriors still echoing in its ears, the creature’s eyes snapped open. It crawled on all fours across the vaulted ceilings, approaching the source of the chanting. A burning rage swelled inside it. It fantasized about the many cruel and horrible things it would do to this cleric who dared to praise the god who had cursed it.


As the huecuva crawled down the walls of the temple it began to pant in anticipation. It leapt from a high perch to land directly on Arrid but was slammed back by an arrow to the shoulder. Eja shouted, "Now!" as she readied another arrow.


The grey skinned corpse pulled the arrow from its shoulder as it stood, determined to attack Arrid again. Inoski let fly his pair of bolas. They wrapped around its ankles causing it to slam into the marble floor of the temple. It rolled over, slashed the cords of the bolas with its claws, and leapt to its feet. It spun toward Arrid, but instead was faced by Sangilak who was only a few feet away. The elf had his hands extended toward the creature. They were contorted so that his slender fingers intertwined to form an arcane symbol as he recited something in Elvish over and over again. His eyes were locked with the creature's eyes, in some battle of wills, and for the moment Sangilak was winning. It seemed paralyzed, but every muscle on the corpse vibrated, threatening to break free and tear the elf apart.


"Now, Inoski, before he loses hold of it!" Eja pointed. Inoski ran at a full charge. Sangilak's brow began to sweat tiny droplets of blood from the strain and the huecuva slowly forced one claw above its head to slash as soon as the elf's will cracked. Suddenly, the brutish Inoski slammed into the creature pinning both its arms against it's body. The momentum of his tackle rolled them both across the apse. Sangilak fell to his knees but after a few breaths recovered and raced to help secure the creature. Eja had readied the bindings and was tying its hands. Eja, Sangilak, and Inoski worked together to keep the ropes secure as the huecuva screamed blasphemies and strained against its bonds. They dragged it onto the anvil shaped altar and used all their strength to keep it there.


Arrid lifted up an ornate bronze staff and hooked the incense burner onto a large ring, slowly he walked around the altar seven times. At the end of the seventh cycle the creature became still and silent as if asleep. “You can release the ropes, it is confined.” Arrid said softly. They let go and sat exhausted on the edge of the apse.


Sangilak looked up towards the entrance of the temple, “The pitch of the beating on the door has changed.”


They will break through soon.” Inoski sighed.


“Then, we must hurry.” Arrid stood behind the altar and held up a golden smith’s hammer high over his head. The hammer glowed white hot as if fresh from the forge. With a powerful blow, Arrid struck the creature, it screamed and fell silent. Again Arrid struck it, then again, and again. Each time the creature screamed and fell silent. Over and over until Arrid’s strength failed him and he fell.


Without a word, Inoski lifted Arrid around the waist, grabbed the wrist that held the hammer and continued the hammering. Inoski was scared for Arrid, he noticed how frail he had become. Arrid turned to Inoski, “That’s it for the hammering. The rest I can do on my own.” Arrid laid the hammer down on the creature’s chest.


Outside the temple, the tunnel door bent open and grey bearded corpses plopped out like maggots from an animal carcass. Sangilak jumped to his feet and pulled a twisted wooden wand from his belt, “They are coming.” Eja slowly rose, bow drawn towards the temple entrance. Beyond the marble pillars appeared a dwarf zombie shuffling towards them, then another, and another. Dozens and dozens more slowly crowded into the temple, shambling towards them.


Inoski drew his sword and took one step down the raised altar’s stair case, “If Torag can hear the prayers of non-dwarven people’s let him hear me. Torag give me might!” he roared and waded into the first wave of zombies. He chopped the first zombie’s head clean off and swung back around knocking another back with a kick. Sangilak pointed his wand, whispered something in elven, and lighting fired into a group of zombies. The blue electricity burned through the chest of the nearest undead, exploded out it’s back, and split into four bands and striking four more zombies, leaving only smoldering bodies behind. Eja shot her arrows rapidly into the crowd dropping some with headshots and slowing down others.


Arrid's strength failed, he fell behind the altar, and could no longer read from the book. He silently pleaded, “Lord, please lift your curse on Maludar.” He faded into a coma as a warm glow engulfed the huecuva.


Eja looked out over the sea of flesh craving undead dwarves spanning the full length and width of the temple and still pouring through the entrance. She saw Inoski hacking and beating back the waves; Sangilak was screaming his enchantment and pointing his wand in all directions trying in vain to hold back the surge of corpses. Eja spotted a familiar face, a small pudgy man with lifeless eyes, half eaten abdomen, and hairy feet. Eja knew it was her last arrow and fired it true.


Behind the trio of warriors, the golden light evaporated, Maludar’s sapphire eyes opened and he sat up in clean new vestments with a pendant of Torag around his neck. His confusion snapped to alarm at the sight of the horde of zombies. He hopped down, grabbing the golden hammer and shouted in his native language, “By Torag’s Sacred Forge, BEGONE!” He slammed the hammer onto the anvil altar, there rang out a thunderous din, as if a thousand hammers had struck a thousand anvils. The sound waves were illuminated with a golden light. As the light passed over, the zombies immediately turned, wailing in agony, and fled from the temple and back out the tunnel.


Sangilak stared in awe then prostrated himself before the altar, “Praise be to Torag. My power is insignificant in comparison.”


“Never has a deity answered my prayer until now.” Inoski sat on the step among the decapitated bodies silently giving thanks to the dwarf god.


Eja rushed to the collapsed Arrid, lifted his head onto her lap, and knew it was now or never. "Maludar, lay your hands on our friend and cure him before he dies!"


"Wait! Where is the king? Who are you people?” stammered the discombobulated dwarf, still reeling from his resurrection.


Eja pried the journal from Arrid’s hand, “Is this yours?” She saw the shocked look on the dwarf’s face. “You have been trapped here for a long time.”


“I thought it was all just a nightmare….” Maludar thumbed through his journal and started to shake.


Eja placed her hand over the open pages, “Please. He doesn’t have much time.” Maludar followed her gaze to the human dressed as a priest of Torag. Still confused he knelt down beside Arrid and outstretched his hands over him.


The old dwarf rhythmically chanted over the human who seemed to him vaguely familiar. There came a small warm glow between the dwarf's hands and Arrid’s body. Color returned to Arrid's face and his eyes slowly opened bright and clear. "Hello, Maludar. It's great to finally meet you."


"How do you know me?" Maludar asked genuinely confused. Arrid pointed to the journal in Maludar’s hand. "You saved me?" the High Priest’s voice cracked.


"No, Torag did. I just helped out a little." Arrid smiled


“You did more than that, lad. You succeeded where I failed. I am in your debt.” Maludar looked down ashamed.

"You didn’t fail, it was your ritual that worked. It can work again. You’ve healed me of the creature’s venom, we are even.” Arrid sat up and looked Maludar in his eyes, “Before I awoke I was given a message for you. Torag told me this city was once a pious community dedicated to him. He wanted me to ask, “Are you ready to resurrect My people?” Arrid extended his hand in partnership. Maludar thoughtfully looked at the young man then smiled with new found hope, embraced Arrid's hand and helped him to his feet. “We will need to capture one, before trying multiples.”


“I have the perfect one to start with.” Eja pointed to a zombie she had pinned to a pillar with her arrow that was still squirming and trying to flee.


Arrid’s jaw dropped and he sighed, “Eilo.”



















Works Cited
• Saggarok (David Eitelbach, Russ Taylor, JD Wiker, Keri Wiker, and Hank Woon. (2009). Dwarves of Golarion, p. 8. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-204-3).
• Huecuva (Jason Bulmahn, F. Wesley Schneider. (2009). Bonus Bestiary, p. 12. Paizo Publishing, LLC.)
• Absalom (Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 246. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1)
• Pathfinder Society (Erik Mona et al. (2008). Campaign Setting, p. 194-195. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1)
• Cairnlands (Owen K.C. Stephens. (2008). Guide to Absalom, p. 12. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-141-1)
• Torag (Sean K Reynolds. (2008). Gods and Magic, p. 38. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-139-8)
• Five Kings Mountains (David Eitelbach, Russ Taylor, JD Wiker, Keri Wiker, and Hank Woon. (2009). Dwarves of Golarion, p. 8. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-204-3)
• Magrim (Sean K Reynolds. (2008). Gods and Magic, p. 48. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-139-8)


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:48 pm 
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Hi Mitch.

Do you wish an edit or a critique?

Just curious.

Ted


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 10:33 am 

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Hi Ted,

An edit or just a critique would be great! I put it out here for anyone's feedback. I saved it as PDF but I didn't know how to attach it to the forum. I liked these characters so much I have started on a prequel showing how they started out. I would love to hear what the community thinks of this piece.

Mitch


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:49 pm 
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it was a fun read. I look forward to the next installment

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Robert Gresham has been published six times in Wayfinder Magazine, twice for PFC, and a half-dozen times for Yahoo! He is the founder of Wayward Rogues Publishing, and was a guest editor on Rite Publishing's Coliseum Morpheuon fiction anthology.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2014 6:12 pm 

Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 5:31 pm
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Robertgresham wrote:
it was a fun read. I look forward to the next installment


Thanks, Robert! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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