Well, as a favor to my friend, I went to this meeting of capable souls in Bern-Kastel. Capable - HA! There were few if any decent folks there, just a handful of dwarves. I got asked to join these humans to go off looking for magical goodies - bah! Magic? It would be better to teach these humans how to fight. But since it was his dying wish, I'll go along. I won't be happy about it though. I did meet Bord Goldenbeard - he'e the leader of the dwarves in this town. An honorable dwarf.
Let's see - I have been stuck with a mage [Rahglesh], a priest of Debrez who is a little twitchy [Torval], a human that whines about servants [Jadaniels], a human fighter with a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder [Slash], and a plains warrior [Jeto]. Gods, this sounds bad. I nearly had to teach the fighter a lesson, but the priest stepped in. And they want me to ride a horse!
No, its worse. Now we have to put up with an elf too [Vitheso]. Damn elves and their attitudes. This one's snobbery is as bad as any. Jeto is a decent sort, if young. Torval is about the only one with any smarts about him.
We fought off a pack of wild dogs today. I got to see my companions in battle. Well, they seem capable, even though Jeto almost lost his life. I held off a number of them, and let Slash do the killing. It was more important to protect the horses - otherwise these idiots would never survive in the mountains. Most of them can at least fight well.
We spotted some hobgoblin tracks. After a discussion about who would go scouting (where Vitheso ignored my advice!), several of us scouted the hobgoblins positions. Unfortunately, my longer-legged companions decided to race ahead, rather than pick a good spot to ambush the hobgoblins. I had the opportunity, but I decided that all 18 might have been just a little more than I was ready for alone. One other dwarf with me and we'd take them out; I would have tried to make do with Jeto and Vitheso.
We encountered an aurumvorax today. The nasty beast took down my horse, and of course I went down too. Why do these people insist on traveling on something whose legs are too thin and tall? Anyhow, the beastie sank its teeth and claws into me, and I got the full treatment. I thought I saw the Dwarven Mountain, but our priest Torval brought me back. We managed to dispatch the gorger without further losses, and skinned it.
Well, that was certainly satisfying. Another Hill giant sent to meet his maker. The party was a little reluctant to engage the giant, so I had to hope that their sense of loyalty was stronger than their desire to avoid combat. If only Vitheso had listened to me when I had decided what needed doing - the giant needed to be killed, and I had to make sure he did not get anywhere. He was a damn good shot with his boulders. Of course the others don't appreciate what I did.
I have found an ancient dwarven crypt, hidden in these hills. The runes had been worn to the point that they were barely visible, so I had to find out what was inside. When I found it was a crypt, the spirits of the revered ancient ones accepted my offer to remake the runes. I have been inspired in this task - it took me all night, but the runes are reset. I hope my companions will keep their mouths shut about this.
A Dragon! I have met a dragon! Her name is Prism, and she is a crystal dragonness, living in a fantastic palace. The art necessary to construct her domain rivals some of the best I've seen! She was also a gracious hostess, and allowed me to look around. If only Mordaen lived to see this. Of course, I was a little taken aback when she appeared initially as a silly elf - her taste in humanoid forms is a little off. I would have never thought a dragon would indulge in a snowball fight.
Grimlocks - yuck. Far too many of the damn things. But they are all dead now. Took a lot - they are sightless, but can track by smell and hearing. Once we figured that out, we exterminated them. At least now I can sleep with cool stone over my head. Tomorrow we'll explore the ruined temple. Oh, I also found a battle axe I believe to be enchanted. I'll have to test it out on the next critter that needs killing.
I am beginning to get used to these companions of mine. A few of them are decent in a fight - even that elf, Vitheso. They all have their quirks, and need teaching in the right ways to do things at times. I probably feel most at ease with Torval, the priest of Debrez. Slash is a good fighter, and I have given Jeto a taste of dwarven ale - he couldn't handle it. Still unbearded I guess. Our mage is - well, he's a mage. There is a druid, or at least he claims to be a druid, named Jadaniels, that helps me control the mule I ride on now; he is a little soft though. Wants servants - he needs to learn the value of honest work.
Well, we had another really close fight. After cleaning the grimlock cave, we piled the bodies outside and lit them up. Well, either the smell from the fire or some other uncanny sense brought a bunch of wolves on us. Only they weren't wolves exactly - as we fought them, their bites did horrendous damage, and seemed to heal themselves from the wounds they inflicted on us. Vampire wolves? It seemed that way, and the fact that they were hurt by Torval's holy water only seemed to reinforce that. Anyway, we drove them off - Vitheso's new arrows seemed to really hurt these critters.
Have spent the past few days resting. Jadaniels is meditating - looking to gain some insights on his faith. The cave had nothing of interest, and I am examining the cliff wall for ores. Its a good chance to take care of my tools - I have not given them enough attention recently. I am still practicing my leatherworking. This meditation seems to be something really significant to Jadaniels - I don't understand it, but perhaps I'll do something that he'll appreciate. Don't know these human customs, but he does need to learn to take care of his tools.
We scouted an evil temple today. The temple had been sealed by Debrez' Saint something-or-the-other, keeping some demon inside. Although my skills are many, demon-slaying is not something I look forward to trying. My companions are certainly not up to the task. So its onward we go.
Behir - nasty customer. He took a lot of beating, and blasted Slash full in the chest. Slash kept fighting though - he's tenacious enough to be worthy of respect. We found its cave, but the others wanted to press onward. They still want to keep their mules and horses safe. I am beginning to think these animals are even more trouble than I figured in the first place. Found some coins in its guts, and the spellcasters wanted some body parts for magical stuff. Well, as long as they lug the guts around.
We are entering dwarven territory. I assume it is a mountain dwarf stronghold we approach. I will have to make sure my companions are on their best behavior. Torval concerns me - he knows more about some dwarves than I feel comfortable talking about.
We have entered Lavahome. Indeed, a fine stronghold. Groktor, the clan chief of their Smithing clan, is a most gracious host. We may get a chance to meet the king tomorrow. In the meantime, we have been sampling the dwarven ale, and partaking of some very good food. Jeto is handling the ale a little better now, and it is sweet to my lips. It is good to feast once again on more palatable foods.
Woke up this morning to the call to prayer for Clangeddin. I attended the services - our group can certainly use some praying for, as can the human nations. Torval listened in; he couldn't understand much, but I tried to tell him what to do and when. He is attentive and an eager learner. Most of the others do not know a beautiful thing when they see or hear it (and Vitheso says we do not know how to enjoy ourselves. He's staying outside, probably afraid of being proven wrong!).
We also met the King. We told him of our journeys (I did not tell him of Prism, to respect her privacy) and challenges. I will be trading some of our coin for replenishing our goods. I have also decided that I should contact their Wayfinder clan to practice my skills and learn. Torval and Rahglesh seem to be happy consulting the Lore of the temple. Hope they do not give their acolyte translator too hard of a time.
I finally feel comfortable after so long. It has been a long time since I have been in such a hold. Makes me a little homesick. But those days are gone - I have no home now. I will certainly make a point of staying as long as possible, and immersing myself back into the pleasures of a dwarven hold - there is much work to be done, songs to be sung. I would like to stay for more than a week, but my companions are an impatient lot.
The Axe I carry is indeed enchanted, as are several other weapons we have found. One is cursed, and I would rather see it melted down, but the others think they may find some use for it. Rather blasphemous if you ask me. I will try to have my axe blessed by the priests before I leave Lavahome. Oh, the King is allowing us to use their "back door". Should save a lot of time, and be much safer - it is a tunnel leading right to the ancient Thorjac wastes. Now we have to figure out what to do about Vitheso - he keeps saying something about "nowhere to run", and "can't run free". Definitely a little touched; dragging him into the tunnels will probably try even my patience.
I have spent the last several days training, carousing, and learning with these dwarves. It has been a long time since I have felt this good. Some of my companions are beginning to appreciate the fine work dwarves can do, and I have been able to relax and enjoy myself. They have also had the fortune to have struck mithril in the mines, on the very day we arrived. Truly a blessed hold. We have been invited to a feast to celebrate with them.
What a fool I have been! I have been traveling with a Thief! And worse yet, it was the one human I felt most at ease with! Torval stole several items, including Bromdal's Holy symbol (Bromdal is the High priest of Clangeddin). He has brought insult to our gracious host and myself. We stand trial tomorrow. Torval has made some silly excuse about a family curse. I can hardly believe it. Perhaps what some dwarves say about humans is true - none can be trusted. I wait to see what punishment awaits us. Groktor has also been imprisoned - I am doubly dishonored to have brought bad fortune to his clan. This dishonor should not fall on such a noble dwarf. I don't know if I will ever fully trust humans again.
The trial took place. Torval's statements of his family's curse held up under a truth-spell, so they must have some grain of truth in them. Groktor was acquitted of all blame, as was I. Torval was exiled from Lavahome - truly he was fortunate these dwarves were in a forgiving mood. I am not sure I would have let him off so easily. I still feel greatly sullied and shamed. Why did the fool have to ruin this? I have few enough occasions to relax and he has taken that from me. We of course will have to travel overland now. The dwarves revoked our privilege of using their tunnels, so we will now take much longer to get to our destination. Now if Vitheso does not stop smirking and gloating, I'll have to slug him. Just like an elf to thank a thief. Hmmph!
Spent several days riding. Its been uneventful. I still have not spoken to Torval.
We have come to the outskirts of the ruins. Vitheso saw a line of heat in a cliff face, and we navigated towards it. There was an interesting carved granite stone, with a concealed area sealed behind it. There was also a small cave hidden, with some runes. Inside, we found three rods with gem- lenses, a golden bowl, and a golden sphere (which opened up into a rose-like flower). There was also a ruby, fairly nice. Rahglesh and I (and that thief, Torval) examined the items. [I kept away from Torval, moving to examine other things in the room whenever he approached]. The three of us worked out that these made some sort of magnifier for sunlight to trigger some form of opening mechanism.
While we were doing this, Slash decided to carve off a hunk of rock from the granite slab. Why he decided he wanted a piece of granite now and not while he was in Lavahome escapes me. He used my chisel without permission, and took off a chunk of this granite thing. I decided (after thinking about it) that he was acting with the impetuousness of youth - he certainly was not thinking. He did not damage the tools, so I gave him a lecture on both proper etiquette about tools, and how to take care of them. I think he got the message. I won't be so forgiving next time.
Well, Rahglesh and I are waiting for the sun to rise, to see what happens when the sun strikes our arrangement of items. I'll be ready - at last we are getting to our goal.
Well, the sunlight was focused into a narrow ruby beam, and detonated some hidden sulfur deposits in the cliff face. I got hit by a little shrapnel, but was ready to force the door if need be. It wasn't. We entered a carved hallway, and proceeded into what looked like a crypt. We fought armored skeletons, who had some light-shooting staves. I torched a good number of them with flaming oil, and Torval used his holiness to drive a number of them into the oil. We wasted the last of them in combat.
During combat, I let Torval touch me for a spell effect. I must make sure all my possessions are still on me. I was in the heat of battle, and forgot who I was dealing with. Not only that, but Slash struck me with one of his damned daggers. He claimed it was an accident. Perhaps I should rethink my commitment to these humans.
It was interesting to walk thru fire without worry though. The experience was certainly a thrill - standing in flames, fighting armored skeletons. Definitely something to remember. I need to get the smoke out of my possessions though.
Well, we came out to rest and recover, and everything was gone. Our horses and mules, all our provisions and equipment we weren't carrying on us. We found some tracks of something, and no sign of the elf at all. Well, Slash got so worried about starving that he wanted to immediately chase after the animals in the failing light. A little hunger might do him good; yet I figured that if they were going to go running off when they couldn't see more than three feet in front of their faces, they needed someone who could actually see.
Well, we found the critters. Half were eaten, our stuff ransacked (it looks like I will have plenty to practice my leather-work on - they ripped up our bags pretty well). They took all the steel and iron but left the gold. Very strange. Unfortunately a lot of our camping equipment and my chain mail was on the animals; that is all gone now. Well, at least Slash won't pester me about starving.
We went back into the crypt. I wondered if we ought to concern ourselves with Vitheso - after all, he was a companion, even if he was an elf. But the party seemed more bent on exploring the crypt, and gave Vitheso up. I guess he got too afraid of the indoors, and ran off.
Well, onto the tomb. Slash and JaDaniels stayed in the outer area, while Torval, Jeto, Rahglesh and I went exploring. We found where a lot of the skeletal guys came from, and then opened a door into darkness. The priest went in after some exploring. I got a little worried, and went in after him - he might end up facing something dangerous. I just hoped that Jeto and Rahglesh would support me.
Turns out that it wasn't that dangerous - only a maze. Totally dark, and silent, magically of course. I navigated thru it, finding Rahglesh on the way and helping him out. My underground sense was beginning to kick in, despite the darkness and silence. It took a bit for me to adjust to being teleported, which is what evidently happened; otherwise I would have not had any problems. JaDaniels had turned into a dog somehow to get thru - a cute trick.
Then we came into an ante-room leading into a great hallway. What a mess. We found that there were scores of traps (future note - always check the rooms despite what the spellcasters say. Their spell didn't spot the holes for the poison gas). Following one of the spellcaster's suggestions, I triggered a beam from the ante-room, figuring we'd be safe in the ante-room. The poison gas that came into the room proved otherwise.
We moved into the room, and Slash walked right over a glowing glyph of warding. A bunch of ghostly figures popped up, and Slash started yelling at them. Obviously he had been deranged by the glyph, so I thought I would go over and help him out. Right into a pit (note - spellcasters finding traps are useless. always check anyway). After climbing out, I tried to help Slash. The images were coming from some crystals.
Rahglesh suggested breaking the crystals. I had no idea about this stuff, so I shot a crossbow bolt at one. Well, one disappeared, but all the others became solid and attacked. I tried to hold them off, but they nailed me with those damn light-staves. Gods I am beginning to really hate magic.
Well, it turns out it was not yet my time, thank the Gods. Evidently they cued on weapons being drawn. They also thought Torval and Rahglesh were people from the past, and let them through. We went down into a room of murals, which all animated. The first showed a battle scene where someone important sacrificed himself to destroy his enemies. I was impressed. If that was the kind of people that Thorjac had, then maybe there is something of them which can be brought back.
Then the next picture showed someone asking if there were things we wanted. Torval asked for help on his quest, and most of the rest of the party went with him. I felt that with the doubt I have about this course, maybe they could tell me if I was on the right path. No such luck. I wonder if I will ever see the halls of Smolderhome again.
The third mural showed a crypt. We actually stepped into these murals, and retrieved a pulsing ruby (the guy's heart from the first mural?), a fancy light stick, and a helm-mask. We then got out of there, much to Slash's pleasure. Turns out he hates crypts.
I need to rest a bit now. I need to get ready for the rest of the excavation. There are a lot of ruins still to explore. I just hope not all of them are as magic-infested as this crypt was.
Well, there is no rest for the weary. We did a little scouting, and some of the party got attacked by them bugs. Almost twice as tall as me, and they looked like big mantises. Turned out they were real smart too - they had psionics which they used to ensnare Slash, and a few interesting crystalline throwing weapons. I wanted to grab one, but was too busy trying to keep Slash from running into their clutches.
What was really weird is that Torval got possessed by some long-dead priest or king, and walked out with the helmet and thunderstaff and started blasting the bugs. They left us alone after that, but we're all a little worried about Torval.
Well, after some discussion, we decided to explore the ruins a little more. We found what turned out to be the palace, with a library full of crumbling books (useless - and they wonder why we use stone), an overgrown sacred grove which JaDaniels pronounced to be a sacred place, an abandoned temple, and a wizard's chambers.
Slash, Torval and Rahglesh also discovered and killed a Magebane that had been feeding off Rahglesh's magic. Interesting critter. I think we ought to bring a whole mess of them back and sic them on Rantell. Then at least their magical edge would be diminished. Rahglesh didn't seem to go for the idea though.
I finally got through a magically trapped door without getting fried. There was a set of keys which opened a door with four keyholes. The trick was that we had to do everything in the right order to get through freely. Torval, Rahglesh and I figured out the clues and got into a treasure room, where we found some magical goodies, jeweled objects, and coins from Thorjac. We dumped them into our swag bags. There was a magical stone I grabbed - it might work for dwarves, whatever it does.
We also got into what had to be a lab after some mucking with another magical door that was warded (Only Rahglesh could open it - figures), and I found a pair of secret rooms; one with a magical mirror in there. I had heard Rahglesh talk about mirrors that could show somewhere you were thinking about, but I could not get it to work for me. Oh well - I did want to at least see my homeland again.
The other room had a glowing glyph protecting a library. Torval and Rahglesh were real excited, but we could not get thru it without triggering the trap. The room seemed to be warded even more than just at the doorway, because when we tried to tunnel through using a spell, JaDaniels got zapped. Slash kept trying to get through, leaping over, running thru - nothing worked. Finally he got zapped into oblivion.
Tomorrow we plan on returning thru the mirror to Bern-Kastel. Torval and Rahglesh are grabbing books out of the library to bring back. I've got the swag with me, and Jeto has the animals. The ruins beckon to be explored, but with the winter months approaching, getting back to Bern-Kastel is good. JaDaniels has druidic things to do, and then will rejoin us (he can make the mirror work) I have already tasted winter on the air.
Now that we are returning, I must confess that I am beginning to warm up to my companions. Still don't trust Torval to keep his hands to himself, although I have not noticed anything missing. His knowledge and wisdom in dealing with the historical stuff of this land is almost indispensable, at least considering what we are looking for. Rahglesh is a curiosity - his exceptional knowledge about arcane stuff is balanced by a lack of awareness of things that really matter, but he is learning too. We respect each other's talents; I may decide to have him teach me a little about magical traps just so I could help figure them out - that magical door taught me that magical traps are just as methodical as those done with metal and stone, and they can be evaded if you know what to look for. I need to learn that stuff. Slash is a wonder in some ways. How someone so lacking in common sense could survive is unbelievable - I guess he has fool's luck. He is a good fighter, even with his toys; he has not shown any interest in real weapons though. Jeto is another I consider friend. He does not judge me at all, and is an interesting mix of naivete and knowledge. JaDaniels is also interesting. He thinks about things in a totally different way - I don't always understand him. He has demonstrated one spell that I am interested in - a spell to shape stone. Now that is a useful tool. Some of the dwarven priests could do that too; I am glad we have that particular spell available, as it could be very useful.
I mustn't let them know I am warming to them that much - don't want them to get sentimental on me, since humans do silly things out of emotions. Don't know what the future will hold, but at least it looks a little better than before. Perhaps some day I can return to Smolderholm, and free it with the help of these friends.
Thus ends the first chapter of the Journals of Krandar Blackrock of the Hetimor clan, originally of Smolderholm, maintained in his own mind and uttered to no one.
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